The paradoxical nature of Odubel Herrera was captured on two stacks of paper in the press box at Citizens Bank Park on Wednesday night.
In one stack were the Phillies' press notes, a collection of statistics and interesting tidbits about the ballclub, prepared daily by the team's media relations department. Twenty lines of copy on the front page of the notes were dedicated to the accomplishments that Herrera has racked up recently (a .331 batting average since June 1) and over his first 2½ seasons in the major leagues (10.0 wins above replacement).
Next to that was a stack of printed lineups for the game against the Houston Astros. Despite reaching base in 24 of his previous 51 plate appearances and having four days off for the All-Star break just a couple of days ago, Herrera was not in the starting lineup. His absence came one day after manager Pete Mackanin yanked him from Tuesday night's game after two incidents - a premature bat flip on a fly ball to wall and the failure to run out a dropped third strike.
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Mackanin, who fined Herrera for ignoring a do-not-steal sign last month, was clearly frustrated with his enfant terrible centerfielder after Tuesday's game. The manager followed through on a promise to meet with Herrera on Wednesday.
The affable Mackanin was unusually tight-lipped when asked about the meeting, but his decision to hold Herrera out of the lineup seemed to speak volumes - even if he bent over backward to avoid calling it a benching.
"We've got four outfielders we have to play," Mackanin said. "He's one of them, so I'm going to give him two days - today and [Thursday's off day]. It's a good chance for two days off. He's been playing every day."
So, was this a benching?
"No. No," Mackanin said.
The skipper went on to point out that Aaron Altherr had come off the disabled list earlier in the day with Daniel Nava going on.
"I want to get Altherr in there right away," Mackanin said.
So much for easing Altherr back into action. Playing center field on his first day off the DL figured to test the hamstring that landed Altherr on the disabled list in the first place.
Mackanin continually deflected reporters' questions about the nature of his meeting with Herrera.
"I had a talk with him today," the manager said. "It went fine.
"You know what, I don't want to talk about what he said or last night. I'd rather talk about the fact he's hitting the [stuffing] out of the ball and he's playing well. I'd like to put this in the past and move on from here. That's what I'd like to do."
Third-base coach Juan Samuel, a consigliere to the team's Spanish-speaking Latino players, was also in the meeting. He's been in others with Herrera and Mackanin this season.
"He gets it," Mackanin said of Herrera. "We discussed a lot today. I basically flat-out told him what he needs to do. When you think about it, his peccadillos haven't been as frequent as they have been in the past. He still has a few."
Like Mackanin, Herrera was also tight-lipped on the meeting and his trip to the bench. He gave vague answers through interpreter Diego Ettedgui then pointed at the clock like a keen observer of the rules and said he needed to depart because he feared being late for pregame stretching.
"It was good," Herrera said of the meeting with Mackanin. "He told me what I needed to hear and he made his point, so it went well."
Herrera, 25, was asked if he was disappointed not to be in the lineup.
"No, no," he said. "It's the manager's decision. There's no trouble or no problem at all."
He added that he didn't know why he wasn't in the lineup.
In reality, however, he knew why.
Everyone knew why.
"I imagine that he calls me into the office to give advice that I need, obviously," Herrera said. "And I take it. It's always a good thing."
Will it work this time?
Time will tell.