Herrera's return eases outfield concerns

Center fielder makes slick grab in first game back from finger injury

Herrera's return eases outfield concerns

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The Phillies are breathing a little easier about their outfield situation.

Odubel Herrera played Friday night in his first Grapefruit League game since March 12 because of a bruised left middle finger. He went 0-for-2 with two strikeouts in a 4-4 tie with the Blue Jays at Bright House Field, but made a nice catch at the center-field wall in the first inning. Still, Herrera needs to get his timing down at the plate before Opening Day on April 4.

"I felt fine," Herrera said through an interpreter. "The swings that I made were perfectly OK. They didn't hurt. I was a little behind in timing. That's the only thing I have to admit."

Herrera's return to form is important. He hit .297 with 30 doubles, three triples, eight home runs, 41 RBIs, 16 stolen bases and a .762 OPS in 537 plate appearances last season as a rookie. He hit .326 with an .834 OPS from May 29 through the end of the season.

The Phillies have nobody to replace his bat in the lineup. The projected Opening Day outfield is Herrera, Peter Bourjos and Rule 5 Draft pick Tyler Goeddel. Cedric Hunter, David Lough and Emmanuel Burriss seem to be the top candidates to take two bench jobs as outfielders. The Phillies are shorthanded following injuries to Aaron Altherr and Cody Asche.

"I believe that as time goes by I'm going to get better," Herrera said. "I still have one week until the season, so I'm good."

Herrera said he hopes to play in as many games as possible before Opening Day to ensure he is ready.

Pete Ball
Phillies manager Pete Mackanin had his team successfully execute three squeezes in four games recently. He said the Phillies need to do those things to compete with more potent offensive teams.

So he had to like what he saw in the seventh inning when Freddy Galvis scored from second base on an infield single from Cesar Hernandez. The run tied the game, 4-4.

Hernandez's RBI single

Worth noting
• Bourjos hit a two-run home run off the tiki bar in left field in the seventh. It was his second homer of the spring.

• Left-hander Daniel Stumpf allowed a solo homer to Darrell Ceciliani in the sixth. Stumpf is a Rule 5 Draft pick and is fighting for a bullpen job. He has a 4.35 ERA in eight appearances.

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his Phillies blog The Zo Zone, follow him on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.