Phillies center fielder Odúbel Herrera has a mild strain in his right oblique, manager Joe Girardi told reporters (including Alex Coffey of the Philadelphia Inquirer) this afternoon. He’s not expected to be ready for Opening Day, and Girardi suggested he could be sidelined for four-to-six weeks.
The Phils declined Herrera’s $11.5MM club option at the outset of the offseason, seemingly ending his seven-year run in the organization. Philadelphia circled back after the lockout, however, re-signing him on a $1.75MM pact. He entered camp as the favorite to reprise his role as the regular center fielder, but it seems the Phillies will need to look to alternatives in the early going.
Matt Vierling looks likely to get the first crack at the job, as Todd Zolecki of MLB.com wrote yesterday the 25-year-old would be the probable primary center fielder so long as Herrera was on the shelf. Vierling had a nice 34-game run to begin his big league career late last year, but his .248/.331/.359 line in 236 plate appearances with Triple-A Lehigh Valley casts some doubt on his ability to shoulder an everyday workload. Former top ten draftees Adam Haseley and Mickey Moniak are alternatives on the 40-man roster, but Girardi said the Phils haven’t given any consideration to playing Moniak in center. Haseley can handle the position defensively, but he limped to a .224/.282/.295 performance with Lehigh Valley last season.
One option not under consideration is kicking Bryce Harper over from right field to center. The reigning NL MVP has some experience up the middle, but Girardi told reporters yesterday (via Zolecki) the organization didn’t want to jeopardize his health by handing him that kind of defensive burden. Harper will stick in right field, and Girardi said today he viewed Kyle Schwarber as his primary left fielder (via Jayson Stark of the Athletic). Fellow offseason signee Nick Castellanos will spend the bulk of his time at designated hitter, relieving Schwarber or Harper in the corner outfield as needed.