MILWAUKEE — Didi Gregorius’ minor-league rehab assignment at triple-A Lehigh Valley lasted only five days last week.
Want to bet it felt like he was gone a lot longer?
When Gregorius left the Phillies, Joe Girardi was still the manager. When he returned Sunday, Girardi had been fired, replaced by bench coach Rob Thomson. After falling to a season-high eight games under .500, the team was winning again.
Everything, it seemed, had changed.
“You’re coming into the [winning] vibe, you’ve just got to contribute any way that you can,” Gregorius said Thursday after notching three hits, including a triple, against the Milwaukee Brewers in an 8-3 victory, the Phillies’ seventh win in a row. “You’ve got to match the vibe when you walk in. That’s what I had to do.”
Gregorius was sidelined for one month with a sprained left knee. He played five games at Lehigh Valley and went 3-for-15 with one home run. The Phillies activated him Sunday, a few days after losing second baseman Jean Segura (broken right index finger) and infielder Nick Maton (sprained right shoulder) to injuries.
But Gregorius also had told the club that he was ready to return, according to Thomson. He insisted he wasn’t rushing back. And in four games, he’s 5-for-13 with two triples.
“His energy level is good,” Thomson said. “We’ve got watch him because he didn’t play all that much [in triple A]. We really have to watch him to make sure that we don’t bury him.”
Gregorius was a homer away from hitting for the cycle Thursday and joked that he went for it by taking a big swing on his last at-bat. But his biggest hit against the Brewers was an accident.
In the fifth inning, Gregorius drove in a run on a check-swing double down the third-base line against reigning Cy Young Award winner Corbin Burnes to open a 3-1 lead.
“I wasn’t going to swing, but apparently I made good contact,” Gregorius said, laughing. “It was better than I thought it was going to be.”
Like the mood around the Phillies when he returned after five days away.
Three of rookie infielder Bryson Stott’s four hits Wednesday night came with two strikes.
It wasn’t a coincidence.
Stott has worked with hitting coach Kevin Long on widening his stance and shortening his stride to make better contact with two strikes.
“It feels good and it feels comfortable,” Stott said. “At first, it felt weird. I’ve never not had a toe tap or a leg kick. It’s getting comfortable.”
Thomson cited Bryce Harper as an example of a good two-strike approach. Harper tends to widen his stance to cover more of the plate.
“I feel like when Harp goes into his two-strike approach, you can’t beat him,” Thomson said. “He fights and fights and fights. He simplifies everything. Head doesn’t move. He’s just seeing the ball, fouling balls off. He’s really good at it.
“If he can do it, you can do it. But you’ve got to get comfortable with it and get used to it, too, at the same time.”
Entering play Thursday, the bottom third of the batting order — No. 7 through 9 — had combined to slash .348/.400/.710 with a 1.100 OPS in 75 plate appearances.
Alec Bohm, Stott, and Mickey Moniak have mostly occupied those spots in the order. Thomson has made a priority of playing the Phillies’ younger homegrown players.
Zack Wheeler was scheduled to throw a bullpen session Thursday at Citizens Bank Park and remains on track to return from the paternity list and start Saturday against the Arizona Diamondbacks. ... Lefty relievers Ryan Sherriff (shoulder) and Kent Emanuel (elbow) began minor-league rehab assignments Thursday night at high-A Clearwater. ... Entering play Thursday, catching prospect Logan O’Hoppe had four homers in six games this month. O’Hoppe was second in the Eastern League with a .596 slugging percentage. ... Former Phillies outfielder Roman Quinn, who opted for free agency last week after being designated for assignment and clearing waivers, signed with the Kansas City Royals and was sent to triple A. ... Public-address announcer Dan Baker is expected to miss Friday night’s game against Arizona at Citizens Bank Park because of a positive COVID-19 test. Scott Palmer will fill in. ... Kyle Gibson (3-2, 4.40 ERA) will start the series opener against Diamondbacks right-hander Zac Gallen (4-1, 2.40), a South Jersey native who played at Bishop Eustace Prep.