Struggles force Manuel to hold fielding practice
It’s not spring training, but the Phillies’ pregame workout before their game against the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday definitely could have fooled you.
Prior to batting practice, the players took part in fielding drills — something Charlie Manuel said he and the coaches decided, during the All-Star break, that the team should do more often.
“Basically the main thing about that was we want to keep the outfielders keep their arm strength [up] and hitting cutoff guys,” the manager said. “We said that at the All-Star break — I told them I wanted to do that, probably each home stand.”
As compared to their recent history of being one of the best fielding teams in the majors, the Phillies have been clumsier in the field this season. They’re tied for seventh in the NL in fielding percentage after leading the league in that category last season.
Consistency is the main thing Manuel would like to see his squad improve upon.
“When someone makes a mistake, there’s always gonna be mistakes in the game,” he said. “But at the same time, you just can’t keep repeating those same mistakes, and we definitely have to improve on those.”
Manuel admitted he’d expect an influx of younger players to lead to fielding problems, but with veterans, he’s less patient.
“A lot of times if you’re 18, 19, 20 years old, a lot of times you come out and you’re trying to teach baseball to them,” he said. “If you’re 29, 30, [and] you ain’t got it by now — hey, I’ll be dead before you get it.”
Only one player in Tuesday's lineup is under the age of 28: Domonic Brown.
The 24-year-old will get the start in leftfield for the seventh consecutive game. Manuel expressed his happiness Monday with Brown’s improved patience at the plate (see story), but he’s also been impressed by his defensive work since returning to the lineup.
“So far in the time I’ve seen him I’d say yeah, he’s caught what he’s supposed to catch and he’s improved,” he said.
That’s certainly a progression from last season, when Brown took too many chances diving for balls and missed on routine plays as well. He had a .951 fielding percentage and no outfield assists.
Once Manuel feels Brown is getting the hang of leftfield, he might even move him around to other positions.
“I’ll definitely use him some in right. Right now, I want him to get comfortable in left,” Manuel said. “I’ll move him around a little bit and see, but right now he looks good.”