The first ball hit Friday night by a Rockies batter was grounded to Didi Gregorius, just a few hours after the shortstop said he wasn’t pleased with his defensive performance this season.
He leads the team in errors and has the lowest defensive-runs saved in baseball. So a routine grounder by Raimel Tapia seemed like a good chance for Gregorius to right himself after three days off.
Instead, the ball bounced off Gregorius’ glove for his fourth error of the season.
“I feel like I have to work on everything. It’s a long season,” Gregorius said. “You have to play your best every day. I’m not where I want to be. I’m not feeling the way I want to feel, but I’m going through that process and what needs to happen day by day. I think that’s the main thing. That’s what I always look forward to.”
The Phillies, as a team, have the third-lowest defensive-runs saved as Gregorius is just one piece of a unit that is struggling defensively for a second straight season. But his struggles in the first three weeks of the season have been glaring.
Gregorius’ minus-7 defensive runs saved was the worst in baseball entering Saturday’s games and his fielding percentage (.920) was the third-worst among all shortstops. He led the Phillies in errors last season but ranked around the league average for shortstops in most defensive categories. His defense has seemed to regress.
“I think it’s fixable,” Joe Girardi said. “I just don’t think he’s been as smooth as we’ve seen Didi. I’m not sure if the ball hit off the heel or where it hit [Friday]. I know he’s capable of playing much better and he understands that, too. It’s just reps and work. We’ll give him that.”
The Phillies re-signed Gregorius to a two-year deal worth $28 million this winter. The 31-year-old is the sixth-oldest everyday shortstop in the majors. He missed three games last week with a sore elbow but was back in the lineup for the first two games in Denver.
The Phillies will play him every day at shortstop, hoping his defense can simply return to where it was last season. And what does Gregorius think he needs to improve the most?
“Everything,” he said.
Maton in center?
The Phillies don’t yet have an indication of how long Jean Segura will be out with his strained quadriceps, but it’s safe to assume that he’ll return to being the everyday starter at second base when he’s ready.
So what does that mean for Nick Maton? The rookie started Saturday night at second base, filling in for Segura for a second straight day.
Maton did play some outfield in spring training and at the alternate site in Allentown, and the Phillies are desperate for help in center field. Could Maton find his way to center when Segura returns?
“I told him to take fly balls everywhere,” Girardi said. “You never know in the National League game what’s going to happen. I think he has the physical tools to do it. He hasn’t done it, really. But I think he has the physical tools to do it.”
Maton had two hits Friday night, giving him seven through his first four games. He’s the first Phillies rookie to do that since Kevin Stocker in 1993. Stocker went 0-for-6 in his debut and then 7-for-13 over the next three games. ... Matt Moore and Jose Alvarado are throwing on their own as they remain in COVID-19 protocols. It’s possible that both pitchers can return to the team on Monday. ... Chase Anderson will face Colorado right-hander Jon Gray in Sunday’s series finale.