WILLIAMSPORT — Odubel Herrera remained in the Phillies' lineup here Sunday night, but only just barely.
Mired in a lengthy slump, and one day after his baserunning mistake halted a seventh-inning rally in a Phillies loss, Herrera was dropped to the No. 8 spot in the batting order for the MLB Little League Classic against the New York Mets. It marked the second time in his career that he started a game in the No. 8 spot and the first since July 6, 2015, his rookie season.
"This is just a temporary move to see if we can put Odubel in a good position to succeed," manager Gabe Kapler said before Herrera went 1-for-4 in an 8-2 Phillies loss.
Herrera entered the game with four hits in his last 29 at-bats. Notoriously streaky, he has spent most of the season as the Phillies' No. 3 hitter and was the team's most consistent offensive player for long stretches in April and May. But as the lineup has gotten deeper with the additions of infielder Asdrubal Cabrera and catcher Wilson Ramos, Kapler has had Herrera batting in the sixth and seventh slots.
The Phillies have tried to jumpstart other hitters by moving them down into the No. 8 spot. By batting directly in front of the starting pitcher, struggling hitters often get to see more fastballs, which can help get them out of their funk. Most notably, third baseman Maikel Franco batted eighth shortly before the all-star break and has been on a tear for most of the past two months.
"One of the things it naturally forces you to do is be a tiny bit more patient, see the ball a little bit longer, and understand that the pitcher is batting behind you, so you have to be hunting pitches to drive and only pitches to drive," Kapler said. "We're hoping maybe this kickstarts him a little bit. We feel very confident in Odubel. It's not an indication that he can't hit in our 3-hole. He's done it for a long time. We know there's a very good indication that he will be back in our 3-hole at some point."
But if Herrera can't snap out of this slump, the Phillies also have other options in center field. Speedy rookie Roman Quinn, in particular, is a desirable option for Kapler. Quinn was 11-for-40 (.275) with four stolen bases since being called up from triple-A Lehigh Valley last month.
First baseman Carlos Santana played third base for the final two innings, a move across the diamond that could happen more often down the stretch if the Phillies want to rest third baseman Maikel Franco and get lefty-hitting Justin Bour in the lineup.
"We can be creative with it," Kapler said. "It's not something we plan on doing regularly, but in a situation where we're down five runs and we have to find some offense, and we might be able to get Bour two at-bats in a game like we were able to do tonight, you probably have to take that shot."
Santana has played third base before, although not since 2014 when he played 26 games there for the Cleveland Indians.