J.P. Crawford works during batting practice on keeping his swing short: quick, compact and without the looping hacks that often come up empty. But then the game begins and the Phillies rookie's pregame work seems to be for naught.
"When the game comes, you get all anxious and you get overexcited and that's when you get into trouble, trying to get all big," Crawford said. "You have to remind yourself to stay short."
Crawford went 0 for 4 on Sunday with two strikeouts as his early-season struggles continued. He has just one hit in his first 23 at-bats, with eight strikeouts and one walk. The Phillies laud Crawford for his ability to reach base, but he has started the season with just a .083 on-base percentage.
Manager Gabe Kapler said the team remains confident. Crawford said he will never lose belief in himself.
"I'm not tripping. I'm not mad at all," Crawford said. "I know the results will come. Keep putting in work every day, I know the results will come."
Crawford, who entered the season as the starting shortstop after Freddy Galvis was traded in December, pointed to his rough start last season at triple A to show how he can turn things around this season. It's not how you start, Crawford said, but how you finish.
The Phillies will not be able to be as patient with Crawford as the Lehigh Valley IronPigs were, as development takes precedence over wins in the minors. Crawford began last year with a three-month slump before finishing with a torrid two months. He will need to snap this funk quicker.
The Phillies need a place to play rookie Scott Kingery, who has bounced between infield and outfield. If Crawford's struggles continue, finding a place for Kingery could become a bit easier.
"We have a ton of confidence in J.P. I personally have a ton of confidence in J.P.," Kapler said. "A lot of guys are struggling around the game right now, 20 to 25 plate appearances in. No concerns about J.P.'s ability to contribute offensively and he's playing great 'D.' I know J.P. has a ton of confidence in himself. I believe in his ability to come through this and be strong on the other side."
Kapler went to the Phillies' dugout before Sunday's game and found Rhys Hoskins sitting alone on the bench, mentally preparing. No one out-prepares or outworks Hoskins, Kapler said. The work is paying off as Hoskins doubled and walked twice to reach base three times. Hoskins has reached base three times in four of the team's eight games this season. He's batting .440 with a .559 on-base percentage.
"He's a pretty special individual," Kapler said. "He's very talented. He knows how to look over a baseball. Very talented in working deep counts. He obviously has really good barrel accuracy and power."