He is placed in an unenviable position, filling in for a player deemed one of the top second basemen in the league and a perennial all-star when healthy. Sure, expectations are low, or at least reserved for a minor league prospect under this type of situation. Hold down the fort in the field and the team will make do with whatever happens at the plate. Hey, if he can get on base form time to time it will be a nice little bonus.
|Freddy Galvis won the fans over with a clutch double
off Marlins ace Josh Johnson.
Photo: Brian Garfinkel/Getty Images
Freddy Galvis started the season for the five-time defending NL East champions at second base, rather than with one of the Philadelphia Phillies' farm clubs as he would typically be projected to do. With Chase Utley battling through a knee concern, Michael Martinez unavailable and the team moving Wilson Valdez in the off-season, the Phillies called on Galvis to fill one of the two massive holes on the right side of the infield. Nobody expected Galvis to instantly become Utley, Placido Polanco or Ryne Sandberg, but nobody wanted to see him be Abraham Núñez. For the first three games, Galvis made contact with the ball but always seemed to find a fielder ready to send him back to the dugout.
On Monday, in the Phillies home opener, Galvis was off to another rough start at the plate. A strikeout (looking) and a fly ball to center put Galvis at 0-for-12 in the season, and with the Phillies down 5-0 and two men on in the seventh inning some were surprised manager Charlie Manuel opted to stick with the kid late in the game. Was Manuel just trying to give Galvis some confidence, or was he out of options at second base? Whatever the reason, Galvis came through with his first career Major League Baseball hit, a two-run double in to the gap in left center field.
Last night, with Roy Halladay battling Miami Marlins starter Josh Johnson in one of the top early-season pitching match-ups, the Phillies offense was once again slow out of the gates. Heading to the bottom of the third inning the Phillies were down 1-0 and not really pressuring Johnson on the mound. But that all changed in the third inning when the Phillies put two men on base with just one out. Juan Pierre singled, and Placido Polanco, Jimmy Rollins and Hunter Pence all reached second base in the following at-bats, putting the home team in front 2-1. Shane Victorino continued the hit parade with a single, and he stole second base to put two men in scoring position for John Mayberry Jr. Mayberry popped out for the second out of the inning, and after a brief discussion the Marlins decided to intentionally walk catcher Carlos Ruiz to load the bases for Galvis.
Knowing what the Marlins had in mind, the fans around Citizens Bank Park started up chants of "FREDDY! FREDDY! FREDDY!" The vocal support for Galvis was something magical, and of course inspiring. Did the fans will Galvis to hit a double to right field? Was it a coincidence? Does anybody care? No matter what happened in that at bat the message was clear. The 45,000+ that were gathered in the blustery cold stadium in mid-April wanted this 22-year old from Venezuela to know that they were behind him despite his struggles at the plate.
The 2-2 pitch from Josh Johnson was smacked for a line drive down the right field line by Galvis, who easily reached second base and scored Pence and Victorino and moved Ruiz to third base. Victorino crossed home and pointed to Galvis, who collected his breath at second base and had to take a brief moment to soak in what had just transpired. It was worth remembering, for sure.
"It was good," Galvis said after the game (via Todd Zolecki of MLB.com). "It was the first time that many people had yelled my name. I was like, 'All right, I have to do something.' The fans do a lot of good things for us. When they do that, we get more confident."
Bob Vetrone Jr. noted the other day on Philly.com that each time the Phillies won the World Series, in 1980 and 2008, the team featured one player who started his career without a hit in their first 12 at-bats. Of course, those players on those rosters started 0-for-12 two years prior to those World Series championships (so plan your parade down Broad Street routine for 2014), so take that for what it is. It should also be noted that six other Phillies got off to 0-for-11 or more starts that were not on World Series rosters in Philadelphia dating back to 1934.
Every team that has a championship pedigree seems to have a young player that is called upon to fill a need from time to time, and when those players come through in the clutch you cannot help but feel a sense of relief and a positive vibe moving forward. Sure, Galvis has a whopping two hits in one week in the big leagues and that is far from reason to get excited about. But on Wednesday night at Citizens Bank Park, Galvis was embraced by the fans no other roookie has been before, including players like Domonic Brown and Cole Hamels and Ryan Howard. The reason is because those players, except for Brown, made their major league debut at the right time in their career. Galvis is not ready for the major leagues yet. Fans understand that, and appreciate the fact that he is filling in for the club a few years before he is supposed to be. Galvis is supposed to be the heir to Jimmy Rollins, who just inked a fresh contract in the off-seaosn to stick around for a few more years.
"After getting some at-bats, I'm getting more confident," Galvis said. "I'm feeling much better. I'll keep working the way I've been working. Right now, I'm feeling much better, and I'm getting some hits."
For Galvis, his time will come. And when he does arrive, again, he will remember what it feels like to be a part of the team. Perhaps Wednesday night was more of a growing experience than any number of at-bats or plays in the field.
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