PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — Odubel Herrera said he felt fine Friday after he played in the field for the first time this spring. The center fielder had been suffering from soreness in his right (throwing) shoulder.
“I’m not going to lie, it felt a little weird because it had been a long time since I played in the field,” Herrera said after playing the first four innings of a 9-2 win over Tampa Bay. “But that’s part of playing baseball.”
Herrera said the shoulder began to trouble him when he arrived at camp. He said he threw “very little” in the offseason, much less than he had in previous offseasons.
“I guess I was just rusty,” Herrera said. “It was just discomfort. It wasn’t pain or an injury or anything.”
Manager Gabe Kapler said it was “really good” to see Herrera. Kapler said Herrera was engaged during his three at-bats; that was a point of criticism last season as he sometimes stood in the box and practically gave away pitches.
“My job is not to look at who he has been in the past. My job is not to look at what he has done in the past. It is to evaluate him for who he has been since he’s been in our camp in 2018,” Kapler said. “He’s been a great teammate. He’s prepared his ass off. He’s been engaged. He’s been cheering his teammates on in the dugout. Nothing but pleased with Odubel so far.”
The Phillies had no reason to rush Herrera back. Kapler said the team never identified an injury, as it was just muscle soreness. They wanted to ease Herrera in camp. And spring training, Kapler said, is “way too long in general.” There are still four weeks of Grapefruit League games left, leaving plenty of time for him to be ready for opening day.
“It helps me that spring training is longer because it gives me more time to get in good shape,” Herrera said. “I’ve been in the trainer’s room every day. I’ve been in the gym every day. I’ve been in the cage every day. I’m taking the right steps to get in really good shape before the season starts.”
Aaron Nola’s curveball continued to come into form as he became the first pitcher to log three innings this spring. Nola, who allowed two runs on three hits, was bitten by his change-up, a pitch he is tinkering with this spring. The most important thing, Nola said, was that he started to gain the feel for his curveball.
“I thought he was sharp,” Kapler said. “[Pitching coach Rick] Kranitz and I were watching the game and I haven’t seen a whole lot of Nola other than tape. So I’m seeing him in person for the first couple of times and I’m not sure what it is about him, but that’s what it looks like — that’s what the top of the rotation, very comfortable, very confident, and maybe even self-critical to some degree, looks like. Command, feel for his pitches, changing speed. He’s just a stud. I’m not sure what it is yet. I want to spend some time with him.”
Fernando Abad has yet to pitch in a game after signing a minor-league deal just after camp began. Kapler said he’s healthy. … Kapler will manage the Phillies in Clearwater against the Orioles while bench coach Rob Thomson manages in Bradenton against the Pirates. Ben Lively will pitch on the road while Tom Eshelman pitches at home.