Versatile Brock Stassi making his pitch to win a spot on the Phillies' roster

Versatile Brock Stassi making his pitch to win a spot on the Phillies' roster

TAMPA, Fla. -- When Phillies camp opened earlier this month, Brock Stassi was considering mentioning his ability to play the outfield to manager Pete Mackanin.

Though he’s played mostly first base during his six seasons in the Phillies' system, Stassi has been used occasionally in left field. He’s also played the position in winter ball in Latin America. Even going back to high school, Stassi played center field.

As it turned out, Stassi didn’t need to have that conversation with Mackanin. The manager actually approached the player early in camp and told him he planned to get him some time in the outfield as well as at first base.

Mackanin and the Phillies' front office value versatility and they want to have it on their bench. Stassi has come to his second big-league camp as a serious candidate to win a job on the bench. His left-handed bat -- which he showed off with a solo homer in Friday’s 9-4 Grapefruit League loss to the Yankees -- would be attractive to the Phils. So would his versatility.

And if the ability to play first base and outfield isn’t enough versatility, Stassi can actually offer something else.

He can pitch.

In fact, the Cleveland Indians drafted him as a pitcher after his junior year at the University of Nevada in 2010.

Stassi returned to school for his senior year in 2011 and was a two-way player. The Phillies selected him in the 33rd round of the draft that year as a hitter, even though on draft day there was some confusion.

“Initially, I was announced as a left-handed pitcher then they changed it to outfielder,” Stassi said. “Then I got to Williamsport (the Phillies’ New York-Penn League team) and had a first baseman’s mitt in my bag, and I was like, ‘All right, let’s go. You’re going to be playing first.’”

Stassi’s minor-league managers in the Phillies' system have always been aware of his pitching background. He has made nine pitching appearances during his time in pro ball, including four with Triple A Lehigh Valley last year. All were in relief in long extra-innings games.

“I got a win and a loss,” Stassi said.

He recalled the loss with a big laugh.

“I shook off Logan,” he said, referring to catcher Logan Moore, another candidate pushing for a spot on the Phillies’ bench. “I shook to the fastball against a lefty. It wasn’t the right move and Logan won’t let me forget that. The guy hit a triple. Then I got hit with a comeback one-hopper right on the butt. It was like a 14-inning game.”

Stassi throws a fastball, curveball and changeup.

“My fastball is like 84,” he said with a laugh.

Many position players in a big-league clubhouse were pitchers at some point in the baseball journey. Roman Quinn, who broke into pro ball as a shortstop and is now a centerfielder, was used as a closer in high school and hit 94 mph on the radar gun.

“I believe it,” Stassi said. “That guy’s got a cannon. I had to catch him when he was playing shortstop. He’d come charging in on a close play and he’d let one loose and I was like, ‘Oh, my God.’ And even from the outfield he’s got a cannon.”

Stassi’s arm doesn’t bounce back the way it used to when he pitched in college.

“Every time I have to pitch now I’m hanging for like two weeks,” he said.

But that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t grab the baseball and gut out an inning if Mackanin ever needed it.

“Hey, if that’s what it takes,” he said.

Figuring out the Phillies’ bench at this point of camp is a little like solving a Rubik’s Cube. There are many possible combinations. Infielder Andres Blanco is a sure thing and outfielder Aaron Altherr seems like a good bet. So does outfielder Chris Coghlan.

Andrew Knapp, Ryan Hanigan, Bryan Holaday and Moore are the candidates for backup catcher. Knapp can also play first base. And it’s not out of the question that the Phils would carry three catchers.

They could fill the perceived final spot on the bench with an infielder such as Pedro Florimon or another outfielder such as Daniel Nava, Andrew Pullin or Cameron Perkins. Or it could be Stassi, whose versatility is a plus.

“There’s a lot I like about Stassi,” Mackanin said.

Stassi comes from a baseball family. His brother, Max, is a catcher with the Houston Astros. They played for their dad, Jim, at Yuba City High School near Sacramento, California. Jim was a catcher who reached Triple A during his playing days in the Giants system.

“My dad always talked about the value of versatility in high school,” Brock said. “He preached it to the whole team. You might have two second basemen and they’re pretty equal, but you want both bats in the lineup so you might have to play outfield. It’s good to be able to do it. Don’t take it as a knock that you’re not at your normal position -- you’re in the lineup.”

In addition to wearing several different gloves, Stassi can swing the bat. He was Eastern League MVP in 2015 when he hit .300 with 15 homers, 90 RBIs and a .863 OPS for Double A Reading. He hit .267 with 12 homers, 58 RBIs and a .806 OPS at Triple A Lehigh Valley last season.

Stassi has been described as “a grinder” by members of the Phillies’ player-development staff, and that’s a compliment. More than one thousand players were selected ahead of him in the 2011 draft. His signing bonus was just $1,000. He’s never appeared on one of those Top 10 prospect lists and never been on a 40-man roster, never mind appeared in a big-league game. But he’s continually moved up the ladder and now, at age 27, is under serious consideration to win a spot on the Phillies’ bench.

And maybe -- if needed in a pinch -- in the bullpen, too.

“Oh, man, it would be a dream come true,” Stassi said. “Ever since I was a kid I dreamed of playing in the big leagues. Just the path that I’ve taken -- I've had to earn everything, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. It would be really awesome to make this team.”

Odubel Herrera appears to be headed to the disabled list

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Odubel Herrera appears to be headed to the disabled list

SAN FRANCISCO — Odubel Herrera missed his third straight game because of a sore left hamstring Thursday night and it sounds as if he's headed to the disabled list.
 
"It's a day-to-day thing," manager Pete Mackanin said before the game against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park. "He might be going on the DL. We're thinking about it."
 
Herrera, riding a 17-game hitting streak, injured the hamstring late in Monday night's game in San Diego and did not play Tuesday or Wednesday. The Phillies filled out their bench for Thursday night's game by bringing versatile utility man Pedro Florimon up from Triple A. To make room for Florimon on the 40-man roster, the Phillies designated reliever Pedro Beato for assignment.
 
The Phillies created room for Florimon on the active roster by sending starting pitcher Nick Pivetta to Triple A. That assignment should be brief as he is expected to come back and pitch in Tuesday's doubleheader against Miami (see story).
 
With Herrera out, Mackanin used rookie Nick Williams in center field. Another rookie, Rhys Hoskins, started in left and Hyun Soo Kim was in right field.
 
Mackanin said Herrera "still has some tenderness" in the hamstring and he was waiting for an update from the team's medical staff on whether to place the outfielder on the DL.
 
It sure sounds like that's coming. Stay tuned.

Tonight's lineup: Odubel Herrera sits again; struggling Tommy Joseph slides

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Tonight's lineup: Odubel Herrera sits again; struggling Tommy Joseph slides

The Phillies will be without their best hitter for a third straight game.

Because of a nagging left hamstring, Odubel Herrera is not in the lineup Thursday night when the Phillies kick off a four-game series against the Giants at AT&T Park.

The Phillies' centerfielder, who is considered day to day, is slashing .379/.431/.636 with three homers, two triples, four doubles and 10 RBIs over his 17-game hitting streak.

To replace Herrera, Nick Williams will see another start in center field, while Hyun Soo Kim plays right field. Williams moves up to third in the lineup, where Rhys Hoskins hit Wednesday. Hoskins, who has three homers over his last three games, will hit cleanup, followed by the struggling Maikel Franco, who is 4 for his last 30 (.133).

Meanwhile, Tommy Joseph slides to the seven-hole. The first baseman is 1 for his last 16 and hasn't homered in 18 games.

In roster news, the Phillies selected the contract of utility man Pedro Florimon from Triple A Lehigh Valley. To make a spot for him on the 40-man roster, right-hander Pedro Beato was designated for assignment.

Fortunately for the Phillies tonight, Aaron Nola takes the ball and opposes Giants right-hander Jeff Samardzija. For more on the game, read Corey Seidman's game notes right here (see story).

Here are the lineups:

Phillies
1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Freddy Galvis, SS
3. Nick Williams, CF
4. Rhys Hoskins, LF
5. Maikel Franco, 3B
6. Hyun Soo Kim, RF
7. Tommy Joseph, 1B
8. Cameron Rupp, C
9. Aaron Nola, P

Giants
1. Denard Span, CF
2. Hunter Pence, RF
3. Jarrett Park, LF
4. Hunter Posey, C
5. Pablo Sandoval, 3B
6. Brandon Crawford, SS
7. Ryder Jones, 1B
8. Kelby Tomlinson, 2B
9. Jeff Samardzija, P