CHICAGO — Odúbel Herrera was one of the team’s hottest hitters when Joe Girardi decided at the end of May to start batting the outfielder every day at the top of the Phillies’ lineup. It seemed like an easy decision: The Phillies were searching for production at the top of the order and Herrera had been batting .303 with a .880 OPS over the previous three weeks.
But that success faded as Herrera has since been one of baseball’s least productive leadoff hitters. And that led to Girardi resting Herrera for what the manager says could be a couple of days.
“He played so well for us and the last three weeks have been kind of a struggle,” Girardi said Tuesday. “So I thought maybe I’d give him a couple days and see if that refreshes him.”
Herrera said he’s been playing through a sore ankle and wrist, but the injuries are not thought to be serious. He homered on Monday but still has a .268 on-base percentage since May 30 when batting leadoff. It’s the sixth-lowest mark in the majors during that stretch among leadoff hitters.
His OPS (.688) is more than 100 points lower than where it was on June 1, and he last worked a walk on June 14. Entering Tuesday, he was the only player in the National League to have 70 plate appearances since June 15 without one walk.
“I know that when I was way lower in the lineup, I was hitting the ball well,” Herrera said. “I feel like when they switched me to the leadoff spot, I was doing well at first but then things kind of derailed a little. I still feel confident and I actually like being the leadoff hitter.”
The Phillies replaced Herrera in the leadoff spot with Jean Segura, who leads them in both batting average and on-base percentage. He profiles well at the top of the order and could handle that role even when Herrera returns from his sabbatical. Perhaps the Phillies would be best served to drop Herrera in the order as he had better success this season hitting toward the bottom of the lineup.
“I haven’t seen anything that’s drastically different,” Girardi said of Herrera’s approach over the last three weeks. “He hasn’t been as successful, but I still feel really good about him.”
The Phillies tried three players in center field before they turned to Herrera at the end of April. He had not played in nearly two years since being suspended in 2019 after being arrested on domestic violence charges. It was expected that Herrera would need some time to reacclimate himself against major-league pitching. A month later, he was batting leadoff and was hitting his stride. But five weeks later, the Phillies are looking to reset him.
“I have to be honest with you, I feel good at the plate,” Herrera said. “I know I haven’t been getting too many hits, but I’m seeing the ball well. I feel good. I’m 100 percent confident that those hits are going to come. Balls will start falling on the ground.”
Neftali Feliz signed a minor-league contract Tuesday with the Dodgers. The Phillies designated the reliever for assignment last week after two rough appearances. ... Matt Joyce remains on the injured list with back soreness. Girardi said the outfielder had a setback during his rehab when he was ready to start playing minor-league games. ... The Phillies will face Nick Pivetta on Sunday at Fenway Park. ... Zack Wheeler will start Wednesday against Cubs right-hander Alec Mills.