The Philadelphia Phillies began spring training in search of a centerfielder.
Eleven games into the season, they’re still searching.
The question now is when does the search go in a new direction?
Roman Quinn and Adam Haseley have shared the position so far.
Both are struggling, and as is often the case in baseball, they find themselves in the spotlight – and not in a good way – during critical moments. Both were involved in notable plays during the Phillies' doubleheader loss to the New York Mets on Tuesday.
Quinn was thrown out trying to steal third base to end the fifth inning of a 4-3 loss in Game 1.
At the time, the Phillies trailed 2-1 with two outs. Quinn was on second, Brad Miller was on first, Rhys Hoskins was at the plate and Bryce Harper was in the on-deck circle.
Quinn appeared to dive safely into third, but he seemed to think the throw from Mets catcher James McCann sailed into left field. Quinn got up, came off the base and was tagged out.
The ole baseball adage is that you never make the first or third out of an inning at third base.
“I’m not going to talk about strategy, but I didn’t have a problem with him stealing third base,” Phillies manager Joe Girardi said after the doubleheader. “I’ll tell you that.”
In the fifth inning of Game 2 with no score, one out and a runner on first, Haseley appeared to misjudge a line drive off the bat of New York’s Kevin Pillar. It fell in front of Haseley for a single. Instead of two outs and a runner on first, the Mets now had runners at first and second with one out. New York scored three runs that inning en route to a 4-0 victory.
“I’m going to have to look at it on video,” Girardi said when asked if he thought Haseley could have caught Pillar’s hit. “I think he had a shot at it.”
The Mets (4-3) were scheduled to host the Phillies (6-5) on Wednesday night. Haseley began Wednesday batting .190 (4 for 21) with a .190 on-base percentage and a .238 slugging percentage. Quinn started Wednesday, batting .059 (1 for 17) with a .238 on-base percentage and a .059 slugging percentage.
It’s clear Haseley and Quinn can’t keep playing like they have.
The Phillies do have options. Scott Kingery, Odubel Herrera and Mickey Moniak are at the Lehigh Valley alternate training facility in Allentown, Pennsylvania.
“Right now these are the guys we have,” Girardi said of Haseley and Quinn. “Obviously there are guys down in Lehigh Valley that are trying to get up here. If we felt they were ready, they would be here.”
The Phillies gave Kingery every opportunity to win the centerfield job in spring training, but he batted .159. The Phillies want him to get back to hitting with a line drive approach to all fields instead of focusing on trying to lift the ball and hit with power.
“Scotty went down to get right, and we don’t feel that Scotty’s ready to come back as of right now,” Girardi said Monday. “There’s been some good at-bats and there’s some other at-bats. He’s used the whole field a little bit more down there. But it’s been OK. We feel like it’s going in the right direction.”
Herrera was once the Phillies' regular centerfielder. But he hasn’t played in a big-league game since he was arrested in May 2019 in connection with a domestic violence incident in Atlantic City. Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said before the season that Herrera, who served an 85-game suspension in 2019 and didn't play in 2020, needs more at-bats to be consistent.
The Phillies centerfielder usually bats eighth in the order. The team doesn’t expect Mike Trout-like numbers.
Girardi said he wants the centerfielders to get on base and turn over the lineup by not making the third out, so the pitcher doesn’t have to lead off the following inning.
Whatever the case, someone – Quinn, Haseley, Kingery, Moniak or Herrera – needs to get headed in the right direction in a hurry or Dombrowski might have to search outside the organization for a centerfield answer.