Herrera is a work in progress as Phillies leadoff hitter

Herrera is a work in progress as Phillies leadoff hitter

Odubel Herrera led off the inning each of the first three times he came to the plate for the Phillies on Friday. The first time he struck out swinging at a breaking ball in the dirt.

But the next two times, he provided a blueprint of how he can become the leadoff hitter the Phillies need. The center fielder finished 2 for 4 with a triple, a single and two of the team’s four runs.

After each of his teammates had gone down in order through the first three innings, Herrera led off again in the fourth. The bat stayed on his shoulder as Arizona Diamondbacks lefthander Patrick Corbin pulled ahead 0-2.

This time, Herrera watched the fastball high and away and the slider in the dirt. He fouled off another breaking ball and then pushed the count full.

Finally, he stroked a 3-2 slider to the opposite field for a leadoff triple and later scored on a groundout to second base.

“That’s always what I look for. I try to get something going,” Herrera said through interpreter Diego Ettedgui. “If it’s an extra-base hit, that’s even better. But what I really want to do is get on base.”

He did so again in the sixth. By then, the Phillies had tied the game, and Herrera was facing Corbin for a third time. He saw mostly fastballs until another 3-2 slider down in the zone. This time, he smacked a grounder off Corbin’s mitt and beat out an infield single.

On the bases, Herrera slid into second on a fly ball to the warning track and moved to third, where nobody was covering, on a ground ball there. He scored on Maikel Franco’s double.

“I’m actually working on the little things because I know I have to get better on running the bases and stuff like that,” Herrera said, crediting help from first-base coach Mickey Morandini and third-base coach Juan Samuel. “That’s the idea, to go the extra mile to make something happen.”

By the end of that inning, Herrera had seen 17 of Corbin’s 84 pitches, and the Phillies chased the Diamondbacks’ starter. Herrera has struggled in the leadoff role, hitting .212 with a .501 OPS in that spot. He said it does not matter to him where he hits. But asked if being trusted with that position gives him confidence, he said, “Claro” — of course.

Herrera came up one more time Friday. With two men on in the seventh, he struck out on three pitches — a slider, a fastball and that pesky slider in the dirt again — and the Phillies lost, 5-4. Herrera, like the team, is inconsistent. But he showed some progress on Friday.

“He needs to keep that discipline, and he’s going to have the kind of season that he had when we were in Atlanta, where he was really hitting the ball well,” manager Pete Mackanin said. “He’ll get back there.”

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Published at Sat, 17 Jun 2017 03:58:04 +0000

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