CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The biggest season of Odubel Herrera’s career has already hit a speed bump.
Herrera left early from the Phillies’ workout Wednesday at the Carpenter Complex when his left hamstring tightened while he was going from first base to third during a baserunning drill. It is the recurrence of an issue that cropped up for the center fielder a few days before camp opened, according to manager Gabe Kapler.
“Same leg, same spot,” Kapler said.
Herrera went for an MRI exam after initially tweaking his hamstring, and the test didn’t reveal anything sinister. Kapler, who characterized the injury as a “slight strain,” said the Phillies hadn’t decided if another MRI will be necessary. Herrera was seen leaving the facility with a wrap on his upper left leg.
The Phillies are hoping for a bounce-back season from Herrera. He began last season as one of the hottest hitters in the league, batting .353 with seven homers and a .978 on-base plus slugging percentage in 156 at-bats through May 19, and ended it as one of the worst, batting .216 with 15 homers and a .630 OPS in 394 at-bats thereafter. He finished the season at .255 with 22 homers and a career-low .730 OPS.
At the end of the season, Kapler challenged Herrera to report to camp in better shape. Herrera committed to a more regimented, seven-week workout routine at a training facility in Miami, and the Phillies lauded his conditioning after he reported to Clearwater in mid-January.
“We think he will get over this very quickly,” Kapler said. “We’re getting it checked out.”
Herrera is expected to compete in spring training with Roman Quinn for playing time in center field.
Kapler met with Major League Baseball officials, including chief baseball officer Joe Torre, to discuss a bevy of proposed rules changes, including a 20-second pitch clock. Commissioner Rob Manfred has said the pitch clock will be tested in spring training.
“I don’t know how much it’s really helping the game, but if everybody’s doing, I’m fine, let’s do it,” Phillies reliever Pat Neshek said. “Personally, I’m not even going to look at it. If they call a ball [for exceeding the time limit], then I might have to start paying attention. But every year it seems like there’s something new that comes in.”
The pitch clock was implemented four years ago in the minors and has knocked an average of 8 minutes off the time of games. It’s intended to start once the pitcher receives the ball from the catcher, and if the batter isn’t in the box, it will keep ticking. But it’s believed the clock will be used only when there aren’t runners on base.
Last year, Phillies pitchers averaged 24.5 seconds between pitches, consistent with the major-league average of 24.1 seconds, according to Fangraphs. The slowest worker among Phillies pitchers was Vince Velasquez (27.6 seconds); the fastest was rookie lefty Ranger Suarez (21.6). Aaron Nola came in at 26.6 seconds. It’s worth noting, though, that those measurements reflected all pitches in all situations.
One criticism of the pitch clock is that being forced to pick up the pace could lead to more injuries. Neshek doesn’t share that concern.
“If I did [feel rushed], I would look back and step off,” Neshek said. “And it would just restart and make the game even longer.”