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August 30, 2017

Put me in coach, I'm ready to play – Freddy Galvis, in center field?

Freddy Galvis is the longest-tenured player in the Phillies clubhouse, one who is respected by all of his teammates and the coaching staff, too, for his stellar defense, baseball acumen, and team-first mentality.

After starting 153 games last year, Galvis hasn’t missed a game this season. Shortly after the birth of his second daughter in early July, Galvis opted to skip out on sleep and join his teammates at the ballpark, forgoing the chance at taking paternity leave, because he wanted to be in the lineup that night.

So it was just a little jarring on Wednesday afternoon when Galvis jogged out to center field, a position he had never played professionally, save a few innings in spring training once upon a time, to start a game in an unfamiliar spot while journeyman Pedro Florimon started at shortstop.

With September call-ups due to join the Phillies within the next week, a group that’s likely to include top shortstop prospect J.P. Crawford, Galvis tried his hand at a new position in the name of roster flexibility.

Surprising to be asked to do so, given how good he’s been defensively at his natural position in the last two seasons?

“A little bit,” Galvis said. “But I think it’s good. Like I’ve said before, I just want the team to win. And I’m going to try to do my best, every single time, it doesn’t matter where they put me, I’m going to play hard and try to win that day.”

So what was up with this center field experiment anyway? Manager Pete Mackanin, who will have his hands full with extra players next month because of September call-ups and two of his outfielders returning from the disabled list, tried to explain.

“As an organization, we're at that the point where we don't have the greatest record and we're going to cover all our bases and move people around just to make sure we don't end up flat footed on some kind situation that might arise,” Mackanin said. “I'm going to put Cesar (Hernandez) at short. I wanted to see Florimon, see if he's in the picture for next year at shortstop. I'll probably play Mikey (Maikel Franco) at first base here and there. Things like that.”

We’re not entirely sure Mackanin needs to see Florimon, but the reality is it’s impossible to put Galvis, Crawford, Hernandez, Franco, Tommy Joseph, Rhys Hoskins, Odubel Herrera, Aaron Altherr, Nick Williams all on the field at the same time. So, the Phillies have to be creative, at least for September as they try to play as many players.

More permanent, final decisions will likely take place over the winter or some time in spring training, when yet another player, Scott Kingery, will also be in the mix.

The Phillies are looking at the big picture, as they should in a rebuilding year. After collecting their 83rd loss of the season on Wednesday, finishing their homestand as they started it by getting swept in a doubleheader, the final month of the season is really no different than spring training, in terms is playing as many players as you can and evaluating what they can and cannot do.

Galvis has been well aware of Crawford’s existence for a few years now and seems OK with a shortstop timeshare if that’s how it plays out next month. (It might not; Crawford has also been playing both second and third base in the last two weeks in preparation for September).

“It’s OK,” Galvis said. “I think September is a time where they see a lot of new players, a lot of young players. That was the conversation. Try to be available to do that and that’s why I’m playing center field a little bit right now. … September is coming and a lot of players have to play. It’s baseball. It’s the way it is.

“In September we call up a few players. We call up a few pitchers, too. And we try to see almost everybody and try to see what they have for next year. Like I said before, I’m just going to be available to play wherever they want to put me. Like I said, I think it’s good, man. Everything is good so far.”

Galvis, 27, has been the crosshairs of a lot of criticism in the last few seasons because of his deficiencies on offense. He had a major league-low .274 OBP last season and his .285 career OBP in 612 games is underwhelming.

But he’s made strides with his bat, too, hitting 20 home runs last season. This year he’s surpassed his career high in walks and is slashing .252/.303/.394 in a team-best 132 games.

They’re not All-Star caliber offensive numbers, of course. But coupled with his elite defense, it’s a stat line that can keep him in a major league lineup (especially if it’s a stronger lineup: think Pedro Feliz on the ’08 Phillies).

“Yeah, it's hard,” Mackanin said of moving his best defensive player to a new position, even for a day. “I think he's a Gold Glove-caliber shortstop. However, we talked to Freddy about it. Freddy's on board. The first thing he said was whatever you think is best for the team we're going to do it. In order to move people around and get a look at everybody in different places ... for example down at Triple-A they played Williams, (Dylan) Cozens, (Roman) Quinn at every position in the outfield just in the event we need something or something comes up.”

Something came up Wednesday. And September could get complicated.

As for 2018 and beyond, the Phillies starting shortstop (er… starting center fielder on Wednesday) isn’t losing sleep over it.

“Not right now – I don’t know, I’m not God,” Galvis said. “So I take it day by day and see what happens.”

Follow Ryan on Twitter: @ryanlawrence21

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