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February 15, 2017

Klentak unconcerned with Freddy Galvis' injury, seeks improvement in his shortstop's plate discipline

CLEARWATER, Fla. – Freddy Galvis may be limited at the start of camp while nursing a groin injury, but his general manager didn’t seem very concerned two days before the Phillies' first full-squad workout.

Galvis, slated to start at shortstop for Venezuela in next month’s World Baseball Classic, recently informed the team that he had to back out because of the ailment. Galvis suffered the injury earlier this month, when his winter ball team played in the Caribbean World Series.

But Phillies general manager Matt Klentak doesn’t expect the injury to limit Galvis’ Spring Training and preparation for the major league regular season.

“I don’t think it’s going to be a big deal,” Klentak said on Wednesday morning, shortly after Galvis reported to camp.

Phillies positions players will hold their first official workout in Clearwater, Fla., on Friday. Klentak said he found out about Galvis’ injury a couple of days ago in a call from the player's agent.

“There was some paperwork and some things that needed to be done to make that official,” Klentak said. “Freddy played a long winter ball season. His team won, played all the way to the end and won the championship and advanced to the Caribbean League World Series and he continued to play.

“I think as much as anything, from what I’ve been told, is that he’s just a little tired and his groin, he might have a mild groin strain, but it’s nothing that’s going to compromise his standing in Spring Training or during the regular season. I think he’s just being smart about it and wants to make sure he’s here and working with our trainers and gets the proper rest and doesn’t push it any further.”

The 27-year-old Galvis, the longest tenured Phillies player, had to inform Venezuela manager (and boyhood idol) Omar Vizquel within the last week.

“It was a tough decision,” Galvis said. “Everybody wants to play for his country. But at the same time, I think the situation, you just have to understand that it’s going to be a long season, six months, and I can’t force my body. I don’t want to (do that) before the start of the season.”

With a slightly extended Spring Training (camps opened nearly a week earlier than normal because of the WBC) Galvis and the rest of the Phillies (including fellow shortstop J.P. Crawford, the organization’s top prospect) will have plenty of time and innings to get reps in Grapefruit League games in preparation for the upcoming season, according to Klentak.

Perhaps staying behind in the less-pressurized atmosphere of the Grapefruit League will allow Galvis to spend more time working on his most glaring deficiency as a major league player: Galvis’ .274 on-base percentage was the lowest among all qualifying hitters in baseball in 2016.

Galvis played sparkling defense at an important position last season; he was one of three finalists for the Rawlings Gold Glove Award. He hit 20 home runs and was successful in 17-for-23 stolen base attempts.

But his on-base skills have been an issue throughout his stay in the major leagues. Galvis has a career .279 OBP in 480 games over five seasons with the Phillies.

“First and foremost Freddy, even last year with the low on-base percentage was a very good player,” Klentak said when asked about his shortstop’s troublesome plate discipline. “(He was) a very solid shortstop for us defensively. I mean you guys watched it, he’s about as good as there is in the National League. And he popped 20 homers. He’s a leader on the field, his teammates really like him, he plays hard. There’s a lot to like there.

“Obviously you highlighted the one area where we feel Freddy can take a step forward. Number one is identifying it, and trying and making a concerted effort to try to improve that. And through our conversations with Freddy it seems like he’s acknowledged it and wants to make it better. And we’re hopeful that working with (new hitting coach) Matt Stairs, a guy who throughout his own career was very good at that himself.

“We’re hopeful that just a new approach might help Freddy. But Freddy knows what he’s trying to do. It’s not that easy to do. Some players are good at it and some players are not, we’re hoping he can take comes steps forward but a lot of it is gong to be how hard he works at it.”

The cruel irony for Galvis is that his weakness as a hitter just so happens to be arguably the greatest strength for Crawford, who was promoted to Triple-A early last season. The 22-year-old Crawford, a former first-round pick and a perennial top-10 prospect in all of baseball in the last two years, has sported a .372 OBP over 406 minor league games since 2013.

Crawford is slated to begin 2017 back at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, where he struggled toward the end of last summer, hitting .199 with a .298 OBP over his final 39 games of the season. But if he gets off to a productive start with the IronPigs in the season’s first two months, Crawford could follow Tommy Joseph’s path to landing a regular job in the major leagues.

With that said, Galvis still has time to improve his own game (and perhaps compete for the future second base job with close friend Cesar Hernandez). Galvis is aware he needs to improve his on-base skills.

“If we can cut a little bit – the power – and get on base more, I think it’s going to be much better for the team and for me,” he said Wednesday morning.

But what stands to be an improvement?

Galvis had a .302 OBP in 603 plate appearances in 2015, his first season as the Phillies everyday starting shortstop. That dropped nearly 30 points last season (when his slugging percentage, however, jumped 56 points).

But, again, what OBP number are the Phillies looking from their slick-fielding starting shortstop?

“The higher the better,” Klentak said.

Follow Ryan on Twitter: @ryanlawrence21