Sandberg holds team meeting before Mets series


Sandberg holds team meeting before Mets series

NEW YORK – He didn’t break any furniture or throw any chairs around the clubhouse, but Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg sent a pointed message to his players in a team meeting before Friday night’s game against the New York Mets at Citi Field.

Sandberg spoke only briefly to the team. His message: Today’s a new day, but what happened the last four days against the Toronto Blue Jays was unacceptable. The Phils lost four times to the Jays by a combined score of 31-11. According to a source, Sandberg, a taskmaster and stickler for fundamentals and attitude, was irked by his team’s sloppy play and the way it went about its business against Toronto.

Sandberg confirmed that he spoke to his team, but had no further comment.

After Sandberg got a few things off his chest, the players continued the conversation in the closed clubhouse for about 10 minutes. One participant described it as “a good talk.”

Will the talk make a difference for the Phillies, who entered Friday night in last place in the NL East with a record of 15-18?

Stay tuned.

Dreadful May lands Odubel Herrera on the bench for a couple of days

Dreadful May lands Odubel Herrera on the bench for a couple of days

MIAMI -- Odubel Herrera was out of the Phillies' starting lineup Monday night.

He will be absent again on Tuesday night.

Yes, the slumping Herrera has been benched.

It's not punitive. It's just manager Pete Mackanin's latest attempt to get Herrera's eyes and bat going again.

"He's getting two days off to correct his flaws," Mackanin said.

The skipper paused and played the positive card.

"After two days, he's going to be back to right where we want him," Mackanin said.

Herrera has had a dreadful month of May. In 25 games, he has hit .181 (19 for 105) with a .196 on-base percentage and a .257 slugging percentage. He has walked just once while striking out 29 times. A number of his strikeouts have come on wild swings on pitches outside the strike zone. Last year, 34 percent of the pitches that he swung at were out of the strike zone. That number has jumped to 43 percent this season, according to Fangraphs data.

A year ago at this time, Herrera had 33 walks. This year he has just 11. A year ago at this time, he was hitting .328 with a .435 on-base percentage. He was slugging .460. He headed to the bench Monday night hitting .217 with a .264 on-base percentage and a .328 slugging percentage.

"It all boils down to plate discipline," Mackanin said.

Herrera didn't balk at the idea of not starting a couple of games. He thought it would provide an opportunity to clear his mind, "relax a little and see what I'm doing wrong." He added that he would be ready to pinch-hit if needed.

Herrera was asked specifically about his vanished plate discipline.

"I think I need to focus more," he said. "I need to find the approach I had last year, more disciplined and selective. That's what I need to go back to."

Mackanin debated what to do with Herrera before Monday's series opener with the Miami Marlins and decided a break was needed.

"You go back and forth on what's the right thing to do," he said. "Right now I think this is the right thing to do. Sometimes you have a guy fight through it. Sometimes you back off. I don’t have a secret formula. You just try to figure out the best thing and the right time to do it. That's why we don't sleep."

Herrera was the Phillies' best offensive player, hitting .291 with a .773 OPS, the last two seasons. That led management to lock him up with a five-year, $30.5 million contract extension in the offseason. That transaction, along with Herrera's comment about needing to focus more, raises the question of whether the player has lost some of his hunger.

Does Mackanin sense that?

"I don’t know," Mackanin said. "I'm not in his head. He sure looks good in the outfield. He covers a lot of ground. I don’t know if he's lost hunger."

Despite the worst slump of his life, Herrera has not lost confidence.

"One thing I'm sure of is I'm going to come out of it," he said.

Basebrawl! Bryce Harper fights Giants' Hunter Strickland after HBP

Basebrawl! Bryce Harper fights Giants' Hunter Strickland after HBP

SAN FRANCISCO -- Nationals slugger Bryce Harper and San Francisco reliever Hunter Strickland both landed punches to the head during a wild brawl that erupted Monday after a hit by pitch.

Harper was hit in the right hip by Strickland's 98 mph fastball in the eighth inning with Washington ahead 2-0.

Harper pointed the bat toward Strickland, charged the mound and fired his batting helmet wide of the pitcher. They started to swing away and they each connected as the benches and bullpens emptied.

At least two Giants players forcefully dragged Strickland from the middle of the brawl all the way into the dugout. Harper and Strickland were both ejected.

In the 2014 NL Division Series, Harper hit two home runs off Strickland. After the star's second shot, in Game 4, he stared at Strickland as he rounded the bases.