Phillies hire Wally Joyner as assistant hitting coach

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As part of their coaching shakeup last month the Phillies fired hitting coach Greg Gross and replaced him with Steve Henderson, and today they announced that Henderson will also have an assistant hitting coach in Wally Joyner.

Joyner spent 16 seasons in the majors as a lefty-hitting first baseman, batting .289 with more walks than strikeouts and 204 homers among 2,060 total hits. He briefly served as the Padres’ hitting coach a few years ago.

MLB teams are limited in the number of coaches they can have on staff, or at least in uniform on a daily basis, but the Phillies are able to add Joyner as an assistant hitting coach because they’re apparently going without a bench coach.

Pitching coach Rich Dubee has long been manager Charlie Manuel’s right-hand man anyway and new third base coach Ryne Sandberg will presumably fill some of the usual bench coach role as well.

And now a lineup that ranked eighth and seventh among NL teams in scoring during the past two seasons will have a pair of coaches devoted to putting more runs on the board.

Why Ryan Zimmerman skipped spring training

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All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.

The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.

It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.

It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.

Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉