Odúbel Herrera is currently working out in Clearwater as a spring training minicamp invitee. The team extended an invitation to the 29-year-old in order to get a better sense of where he’s at from a baseball perspective.
On a personal level, the situation is much more nuanced than that. Herrera was arrested in May of 2019 for assaulting his girlfriend in an Atlantic City hotel. She declined to press charges against him. He was suspended for the remainder of the 2019 season, invited to minor-league camp prior to the originally scheduled 2020 season and kept off the 60-man player pool when the season resumed.
Inviting him to spring training came with consequences from both a public relations and personnel standpoint. Some players and staff members may not be pleased with the fact that Herrera is getting the chance to revive his Phillies career.
Rhys Hoskins, who is one of the more prominent leaders in the Phillies clubhouse as well as the team’s players union representative, spoke on the issue in a Zoom conference with the media on Monday.
“I don’t think anybody would condone what happened a couple of years ago,” Hoskins said. “I think we also have to remember that he was in minor-league camp last year. I think that’s pretty important to remember. I think he’s in minicamp this year.
“But look, I think everyone knows he’s going to have to earn that clubhouse’s trust back. I think he knows that as well. I think that’s what we’re going to focus on as a group. Obviously, he needs to play and make the team. We’re just going to focus on seeing what he can do to earn our trust back and let the chips kind of fall where they may.”
Hoskins went on to say that he’s had conversations with Herrera. Like Aaron Nola, Hoskins believes that Herrera is in a good place.
“How that shows itself over the next six to eight weeks, who knows? Just trying to take it day-by -day here.”
Both Nola and Joe Girardi were asked about Herrera at some point this spring. The Phillies pitcher expressed a willingness to accept Herrera into the clubhouse and believed most of the team would too.
“I think everybody has their opinion, but I would [welcome him back]. I believe in second chances,” Nola said Wednesday. “We all know what Odúbel is capable of on the field. A lot of us have been with him for a little while now and he’s a good player…We know he can help us win ballgames and that’s what we’re focused on. But I know he’s learned from his decision, and he’s had to do what he’s had to do, so I think he’s in a good place right now for himself, and I think baseball-wise, he can definitely help us win. I mean the guy is one of the most athletic guys I’ve seen on a field.”
Girardi focused on explaining some of the reasoning behind why Herrera has been given another chance, which has to do with the current collective bargaining agreement that affords players a chance at redemption.
“I have talked to some of the players about it,” Girardi said Wednesday. “And here’s really, to me, the important thing: this was collectively bargained between the commissioner and the players. So, he’s afforded a chance to prove to his teammates…to the fans of Philadelphia…the organization…that he is a changed person. The collective bargaining agreement allows for redemption. And he’s trying to earn a spot back.
“He’s also trying to earn the respect of a lot of people back because obviously, it took a hit when the domestic violence came out. So to me, it’s important that he proves himself to everyone. And he’s been afforded that chance because of the collective bargaining agreement.”
Hoskins was hesitant to predict what would happen if Herrera did make the team.
“I wish I had a crystal ball,” Hoskins said. “Everyone is going to react differently to a situation like this. Maybe some guys have something like this in their past and it cuts a little bit deeper. Some guys may also believe that everybody deserves a second chance if they’ve proven that they’re willing to move on. I don’t know how it’s going to play out. I think everyone’s kind of watching it. We just all know that it’s on him to gain the trust of the organization back. That he’s become a better person because of it.“
Hoskins’ voice carries a ton of weight in the clubhouse. Believe it or not, he’s one of the longest-tenured players on the team and has taken on a leadership role since he arrived in the big leagues in 2017. He addressed the media when the Phillies and Nationals decided to sit out a game in protest of racial injustice last season.
He’s not shy to speak on issues that most professional baseball players prefer to stay away from. The storyline surrounding Herrera and how the players feel about the team opening the door for a return will remain prominent all throughout camp. For now, it seems like one of the team’s more prominent leaders is proceeding with caution.
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