PHOENIX - Although the slick-fielding infielder was hitless in his last 17 at-bats, Ryne Sandberg inserted Freddy Galvis into his starting lineup against the Diamondbacks on Saturday night. He wanted strong defense behind Cliff Lee and he obviously wanted to give Galvis a chance to get going offensively.
Galvis went 0-for-5 with two strikeouts. He's hitless in his last 22 at-bats and hitting .033 (1-30) since returning from the disabled list more than 2 weeks ago.
"He's struggling," general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said of Galvis, who was out of yesterday's starting lineup. "I'm sure it's been hard for him. I'm sure it's weighing on him mentally. He just needs to flip one in, get a little dinker, so he can breathe. But I've been through it. I've lived it. It's hard."
Amaro could relate because he was once hitting .067 after his first 23 games of the season back in 1994, his fourth year in the big leagues and first with the Cleveland Indians. Although his skid lasted more than 2 months, Amaro didn't play anywhere near as much as Galvis during that time: He had 15 at-bats (and one hit) over that period from late May to early August.
Since they value his superior defense off the bench, the Phillies are likely to keep Galvis on the major league roster and hope his bat breaks through.
If the front office changes gears and decides sending Galvis down is the best option, Cesar Hernandez would be the obvious replacement. But Hernandez, who began the regular season with the Phillies, is at Double A Reading continuing to work at third base and shortstop in an attempt to increase his versatility.
Hernandez is hitting .354 with a .407 OBP, two doubles and a home run in 12 games in Reading. He was sent to Reading, rather than Triple A Lehigh Valley, because the organization's top prospect, Maikel Franco, is playing third for the IronPigs.
"He's done pretty well, he's swinging the bat well," Amaro said of Hernandez. "He's still learning. But he's doing OK. He's adjusting pretty good. He's enthusiastic about it and going about it the right way, which is good. Anytime a guy is sent down to that level you wonder how they're going to handle it mentally, but he's handled it well. He's working hard, working at it."
Hernandez was used almost exclusively as a second baseman in his first seven seasons in the Phillies system, before he was introduced to centerfield last summer. Hernandez' centerfield experiment, however, is over.
"We're not doing that anymore," Amaro said. "We think we're better covered now with the guys we have, with Tony [Gwynn Jr.] here, [Marlon] Byrdie in a pinch if we need him to play. I think we're covered there. [John] Mayberry [Jr.]."
Galvis, meanwhile, has two games left to avoid being the third player in major league history to have 30 or more at-bats and only one hit entering the month of May (Richie Scheinblum, 0-for-30, 1969; Bob Kearney, 1-for-34, 1985).
Sandberg began the 1982 season, his first full year in the big leagues, 1-for-30 in his first nine games. But he went 15-for-49 (.306) in his next 11 games to salvage his April.
"You have to keep strong, playing and giving 100 percent for the team and that's what I'm going to do," Galvis told reporters yesterday morning. "In seven games, I think I've hit more than eight balls good without a hit but that's baseball. Sometimes, you can get five or six bloopers on the road and you get five hits. That's baseball."
Galvis entered yesterday's game in the ninth to play third base as part of a double switch, as Sandberg wanted his best defensive player on the field. The first batter, Paul Goldschmidt, hit a tough ground ball to Galvis' left, and the infielder threw the MVP candidate out from his knees.
"It was great to see," Sandberg said. "Right on time."
Darin Ruf is nearly 6 weeks removed from suffering his rib cage injury, but his return from the disabled list is not imminent.
Ruf took part in a simulated game yesterday morning in Clearwater, Fla. But he will not be rejoining the Phillies on their upcoming homestand.
"He needs at-bats," Amaro said. "He needs to play in games. He needs to go through a rehab. We'll start him off in extended [spring training games] and see where he goes from there. But he needs ABs."
Ruf was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a Grade 1-2 left oblique strain before the start of the season. The Phillies said they expected Ruf to miss 4-to-6 weeks at the time diagnosis of the injury, on March 21.
Righthander Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez (60-day DL, shoulder) is expected to begin pitching in extended spring training games soon. Gonzalez threw 40 pitches in a simulated game in Clearwater, Fla., yesterday. He hit 94 mph on the radar gun. "Very encouraging," Amaro said of Gonzalez, who was signed to a 3-year, $12 million deal as a free agent out of Cuba in August . . . Ethan Martin (15-day DL, shoulder) will pitch in an extended spring training game today. He could begin an official rehab assignment within the week; barring a setback he could rejoin the Phillies within the month. Martin, who will pitch out of the bullpen this season, would be a boost to a relief corps in need of capable righthanded arms . . . Catching prospect Tommy Joseph was placed on the disabled list at Double A Reading. Joseph experienced concussion symptoms after taking a foul ball off his mask on Friday. He was limited to 24 games last year while battling concussion issues. Joseph, 22, was hitting .255 with four home runs and 15 RBI in 15 games at Reading this season.