First-year Phillies manager Gabe Kapler says he is not troubled by the verbal jabs that have been directed at him from his own clubhouse in recent days.
In fact, he looks at the criticism constructively.
"Anytime that I hear something that makes me feel uncomfortable, it's a good way for me to think about how I can be better at being a partner," Kapler said before Saturday night's game against the Marlins.
Amid the hoopla of Thursday's home opener, Kapler absorbed a couple of daggers from his own players. National baseball reporter Jon Heyman authored a piece critical of Kapler and his first week on the job. In the story, Heyman quoted an anonymous Phillies player as saying the team would be OK … "We just need the manager to stay out of the way." Later on Thursday, outfielder Nick Williams protested his lack of playing time by telling reporters from MLB.com and Philly.com that "computers" were making out the Phillies lineup - a clear reference to the team's growing use of analytics.
On Saturday, Williams, a veteran of barely a half-season in the majors and off to a 1-for-11 start this season, said he regretted his comments and revealed that he reached out to Kapler Thursday night to apologize and clarify.
"It wasn't my intent to stir the pot," Williams said. "I felt horrible. It was taken out of context. Some people might not realize I was joking, but the timing wasn't right. I told him that's not who I am. He's the skipper and I respect him."
Kapler spoke with Williams on Saturday about more "professional" ways to handle "discomfort".
"We had a really nice heart to heart and he's going to be in the lineup tomorrow," Kapler said. "He's a competitive guy and he wants to be in the lineup, which I totally understand. We had some conversation about how to address that best going forward.
"All of these guys should want to be on the field every single day so they can contribute to wins. I respect that drive and I think there's always a really, really professional way to approach it, there's a great teammate way to approach it, and we're going to encourage handling any discomfort that we have in the most professional way possible and with the best teammate behavior possible. We'll keep talking to our guys about that. We'll continue to educate and be responsive to the concerns of our players."
As for concern voiced by the anonymous player, Kapler said he remains committed to connecting with his players and building relationships through strong communication.
"I'm attempting to connect with our clubhouse and I have been for a really long time," he said. "I've been pretty committed to that initiative even back to the offseason. My obligation is to the players in that clubhouse and I continue to think about them nonstop and putting them in the best possible position to succeed.
"I also continue to think nonstop about how I can build tighter, stronger relationships with the men in that clubhouse. And I continue to think about ways that I can be more effective in my communication. I'll stay focused on that."