MILWAUKEE -- A few hours before Friday night’s series opener at Miller Park, Odubel Herrera moved throughout left field and chased down balls hit into the air by a coach.
Most of the team’s regular players were gathered near the batting cage, preparing for yet another game. And that is where Herrera, who was an everyday outfielder for the last four seasons, once belonged. But Herrera, who was out of the lineup for the fourth time in six games, was relegated to the monotony of shagging fly balls.
After striking out swinging as a pinch hitter Friday against the Brewers, he has just 11 hits in his last 70 at-bats. Scott Kingery started the last three games in Chicago, but that was expected as the Phillies faced lefthanded starters. But there he was again on Friday night in Milwaukee against a righthanded starter.
Herrera, ever since Kingery returned Sunday from the injured list, seems to no longer be viewed by the Phillies as an everyday player. Then what is his value?
Herrera seems to be limited positionally -- 98.5 percent of his major-league innings have come in center field -- and he has struggled this season against lefthanded starters. Herrera, Kapler said, can play right or left field but the Phillies already have automatic starters in the corners with Andrew McCutchen and Bryce Harper.
The Phillies are confident that Kingery, a natural second baseman, has the athleticism to play center field. That adjustment will take some time, but Kingery’s bat (he entered Friday with a 1.029 OPS) buys the Phillies some patience. The center field job seems to be his. It is not, at least now, a platoon between Kingery and Herrera.
“I had a conversation with Odubel and told him we just need to see you get back on track with your swing and when you’re productive you’ll get your opportunity,” Kapler said. “He understands the situation that Scott has been productive and is a good option for us in center field. The best guy is going to play out there.”
Herrera’s value on the bench, Kapler said, will be determined by how he handles his pinch-hit chances. He entered Friday 0-for-5 this season as a pinch hitter. The Phillies were reminded last week when they demoted Nick Williams to triple A of the challenges a player can face when they are asked to be a pinch hitter after seeing such limited playing time. Herrera, an All Star just three years ago, now seems to find himself in that situation.