At an annual Phillies caravan stop, new manager Joe Girardi spoke glowingly about the team that he will be taking over when spring training begins early next month in Clearwater, FL and players Roman Quinn and Vince Velasquez spoke about being ready to start spring training and head into the season on a high note.
Girardi saw the Phillies a few times last season as a television analyst and was impressed with some of the players and how they fought hard in games. He remembered a particularly cold night in Chicago when the Phillies battled back against the Cubs and was impressed with the team. The one downside that he saw in the 2019 version of the Phillies is still a concern for him as he prepares to lead the team into 2020 – health.
“I thought last year that they were a pretty good team, but they kept having injuries, even to where they went out and got Jay Bruce and he got hurt and they got Corey Dickerson and then he went down,” remembered the former Yankees skipper. “That’s my only concern with the team this season, too. We’re a pretty good team, but if the injuries continue again this season it will make it much more difficult to win.”
Speaking of injuries, Quinn has been plagued by them throughout his professional career. Again last season, he spent a chunk of the year on the Injured List, continuing a trend that started back when he was a minor league player in the Phillies organization. In preparing for the upcoming season, Quinn spent some time working with different trainers and changing up some of his workout routines in an effort to avoid injuries down the road.
When Quinn is healthy, he has the potential to be a terror on the basepaths as one of the fastest – if not the fastest – player in the majors. In speaking with Girardi, Quinn found out that his speed could play a big role in Girardi’s plans for the team this season.
“It’s been frustrating at times. Speed is somewhat of a blessing and a curse, because it creates opportunities, but it can also lead to some injuries along the way,” said Quinn. “Joe [Girardi] wants us to be aggressive on the bases and tap into speed where he can, so I’m ready and when you’re out there, you don’t even think about the injuries or what could happen, you’re just going.”
Pitcher Vince Velasquez was also on hand and talked about his struggles on the mound. He believes that there were two reasons why he struggled last season and also believes that he’s got both reasons under control. Even though he’s never met new pitching coach Bryan Price, he’s spent a lot of time texting back-and-forth with him and sharing videos. Price and Velasquez believe that some of his problems came from being too predictable in pitch counts and the rest was mental.
“The predictability part was mainly because of the coaching philosophy last season and I see where that was a problem,” said Velasquez. “For the mental part, I really got away from the game for a little this offseason and I traveled to Bali and Singapore and it helped me a lot mentally. I think I’m in a good place coming into the season, probably better than I’ve ever been.”
The annual banquet raises money for IronPigs Charities, which is then distributed to help local agencies and causes throughout the year.
UNANIMOUS CONSENT… Girardi spoke about his former player Derek Jeter, who missed being only the second player ever to be inducted to the Hall of Fame as a unanimous selection by one vote. Girardi saw a lot of Jeter when he managed him with the Yankees and believes Jeter deserved to be a unanimous selection, but was diplomatic in his response.
“Everyone is entitled to their opinion and while I believe he deserved to be a unanimous selection, that apparently wasn’t everyone’s opinion,” said Girardi.
LET THEM PLAY… Assistant GM Scott Proefrock was also on hand and addressed the proposal by Major League Baseball to contract the number of minor league teams from 160 to 118. The proposal would also cut the number of minor league players in an organization, something that Proefrock has some concerns about.
“I think back to when I was with the Braves, we had Chipper Jones and Tony Graffanino as young shortstops at the same time. They both needed to play, so we put one at a slightly higher level than the other so they were getting consistent playing time. With less teams, you won’t have the opportunity to do that and with less players, you could easily miss on some of these guys,” lamented Proefrock.