As you work to make amends for a major mistake, the best thing you can do is take things one day at a time. For Odúbel Herrera, Thursday was a very good day.
Herrera had apologized for his May 2019 domestic violence arrest in front of some of his teammates before Tuesday’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays, though the full camp wasn’t present in Dunedin. Thursday, Herrera apologized to the full major league camp, a group that included first baseman Rhys Hoskins, one of the most prominent voices in the Phillies clubhouse.
“I was a part of it. He got the whole camp together and he spoke to us about his situation,” Hoskins said. “He apologized. I know one of his big things is he’s trying as hard as he can to be the best teammate that he can be, and he conveyed that to us. He was sorry for putting the organization and his teammates in this line of fire…in this situation. Overall, I think it was positive. Obviously, it’s a tough thing to do and with the magnitude of something like this, it’s always going to take time. I think he knows that he’s gotta earn some trust back, it’s just gonna take some time right now.”
Earlier this week, Herrera, now 29, also apologized publicly and asked for a chance to prove that in the nearly two years since his arrest, he’s improved as a person.
“I just want to say that about what I did in 2019, I feel sorry because I made a big mistake,” Herrera said Tuesday. “I know some people are not going to forgive me, and I understand that. But I have spent the last two years earning [his girlfriend] Melany’s trust back and I am grateful because she forgave me. Now, I would like to have the same opportunity with my teammates, our fans and the Phillies family. Thank you.”
Herrera got his second Grapefruit League start in three days Thursday, and impressed on the field again. In a 15-0 win over the New York Yankees, Herrera and Nick Maton completed a relay from the right-field corner to home plate in time to throw out Yankees catcher Kyle Higashioka in the top of the second inning. In the home half of the inning, Herrera hit a long home run, eliciting the return of his signature bat flip.
In total, Herrera went 2-3 Thursday, and his performance wasn’t lost on manager Joe Girardi.
“The defense…the baserunning where he didn’t pass the runner on the bases-loaded single…he played a great game,” Girardi said afterwards. “I was a little worried when he hit that wall – he hit it with his knee – I was worried that he hit it with his head, but he said he was fine. Which at-bat is more impressive? I’m gonna say hitting a 3-2 breaking ball the other way. He stayed back and he had a great day today.”
Hoskins, who was teammates with Herrera for parts of three seasons before his arrest and suspension, seems happy with the on-field improvements he’s seen from Herrera so far in Clearwater as well.
“Yeah, obviously we know that bat-to-ball skills that he possesses. That’s already been on full display,.” Hoskins said of Herrera. “I think the play today was outstanding. He’s sliding into the wall, trying to cut a run off, and this early in camp, that was phenomenal to see. He’s hustling hard out of the box, and those are the kind of things I think he knows he needed to clean up, and so far it looks like he has.”
There is a reality here that this is still very much an uphill battle for Herrera, a situation he created for himself. He’s not on the 40-man roster. Mickey Moniak, who homered twice Thursday, is. Joe Girardi seems to have taken a liking to the former No. 1 overall pick. Roman Quinn, Adam Haseley and Scott Kingery are all, of course, on the 40-man roster as well. Quinn is out of minor-league options, and it’s hard to see either Haseley or Kingery opening the year at the satellite squad. Herrera will get a start in center field in the coming days, but he’s certainly not the favorite to win the job at this stage.
It’s possible that Herrera will have to open the season at the satellite squad and hope for an opportunity to present itself. Then again, if he continues to have days like Thursday, he could force the hand of the Phillies.
“Well I think people in Philadelphia have seen the talent that he has – I mean, he’s been an All-Star,” Girardi continued. “From everyone that I’ve talked to…people that were here early in spring training have talked about how he has matured…how he’s in better shape than they’ve seen him in a long time. And I think he understands that you get so many chances in life, and you gotta make the most of them, and I think that’s what he’s trying to do.”
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