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Phillies seek to jumpstart offense by moving hot Odúbel Herrera into leadoff spot

The streaky center fielder was 14-for-44 (.318) with two doubles, two homers, and a .380 on-base percentage this month entering Wednesday night's game in Arizona.

The Phillies' Odubel Herrera was inserted into the leadoff spot against the Diamondbacks on Wednesday.
The Phillies' Odubel Herrera was inserted into the leadoff spot against the Diamondbacks on Wednesday.Read moreYONG KIM / Staff Photographer

PHOENIX -- Seeking to ignite an offense that has been largely dormant for the last week, the Phillies made a change at the top.

Odúbel Herrera, move on up.

Herrera returned to the lineup in the leadoff spot here Wednesday night for the continuation of a three-game series against the Arizona Diamondbacks. It seemed like a strange choice considering his .302 on-base percentage was tied for 159th among 192 batters with at least 300 plate appearances. But unlike most of his teammates, Herrera has swung the bat relatively well lately.

“You try to ride Odúbel’s hot streaks is what you do,” manager Joe Girardi said. “He had a good at-bat again [Tuesday] night. You try to ride those hot streaks because when he gets in them, he gets in them.”

Herrera was 14-for-44 (.318) with two doubles, two homers, and a .380 on-base percentage this month through Tuesday when he drew a nine-pitch walk as a pinch-hitter in the ninth inning. He has batted primarily near the bottom of the order after hitting in the leadoff spot earlier in the season.

» READ MORE: Is Phillies’ Zack Wheeler the NL Cy Young favorite? Let’s size up the rest of the field.

Since an eight-game winning streak in which the Phillies averaged 6.9 runs and 10.1 hits per game, they scored two runs or less in five of seven games entering play Wednesday night. They lack leadoff options, too. Jean Segura began the night in a 1-for-20 funk, while Andrew McCutchen was 2-for-22 since returning from the injured list last week. McCutchen also has thrived in a middle-of-the-order spot after struggling early in the season as the leadoff man.

In moving Herrera up, the Phillies also were able to push J.T. Realmuto into the cleanup spot behind Bryce Harper, their hottest hitter over the last few weeks.

Girardi said he hasn’t considered outside-the-box leadoff options, such as moving Alec Bohm (.374 on-base percentage since June 1).

“I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad idea,” Girardi said. “It’s just something he’s never done. At least probably not recently.”

Herrera stablized the Phillies’ center-field position in late April after getting called up from triple-A Lehigh Valley. He cooled considerably through the middle of the season and spent time on the injured list last month with left ankle tendinitis. He aggravated the ankle injury last weekend and didn’t start Tuesday night’s series opener.

“It’s just something that we have to manage the rest of the year,” Girardi said. “And it’s probably from the lack of playing.”

Indeed, when Herrera was sidelined last month, the Phillies hoped the downtime would give him a second wind. He didn’t play after Memorial Day in 2019 while serving a suspension for violating Major League Baseball’s domestic abuse policy and sat out all of last season.

Hoskins aiming for Friday

Rhys Hoskins tested his strained left groin by running with increased intensity. He won’t be reinstated from the injured list for the series finale against the Diamondbacks, but he could be ready “really shortly after that,” according to Girardi. The Phillies open a three-game series Friday night in San Diego.

Hoskins has missed 15 of the last 18 games, including 11 in a row. The slugging first baseman had been among the Phillies’ hottest hitters before the injury, going 13-for-33 (.394) with five doubles, three homers, and a 1.292 OPS in his last 10 games.

Girardi said Bohm will likely play first base Thursday. Bohm, who has struggled defensively at his natural third base and in one start at first base last week, hasn’t started six consecutive games.

Springtime in Clearwater

The Phillies will open the 2022 spring-training schedule Feb. 26 against the New York Yankees in Tampa, Fla., and close it with a March 29 exhibition against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field, according to plans released by Major League Baseball. In between, they will play 34 Grapefruit League games, 16 at BayCare Ballpark in Clearwater, including the annual St. Patrick’s Day game on March 17.

» READ MORE: Phillies’ Alec Bohm: ‘No frustration’ over being on bench again for series opener against the Diamondbacks

After playing only five opponents -- the Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays, Detroit Tigers, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Baltimore Orioles -- this year because of limited bus travel due to COVID-19 protocols, the Phillies are scheduled for a more normal slate of games next spring. They will face eight teams and travel as far as 2 1/2 hours south to Fort Myers to face the Boston Red Sox and Minnesota Twins.

The Phillies are scheduled to open the 2022 regular season on March 31 in Houston. The home opener is slated for April 8 against the Oakland Athletics.

Extra bases

Freddy Galvis (quadriceps) played shortstop and went 0-for-3 Tuesday night for triple-A Lehigh Valley and was scheduled to play again if the game hadn’t gotten rained out. Girardi said Galvis will play several infield positions during his minor-league rehab assignment. ... Zack Wheeler (10-7, 2.56 ERA) is scheduled to start Thursday’s matinee (3:40 p.m. ET) series finale against Diamondbacks lefty Madison Bumgarner (6-7, 4.30).