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Castellanos, Schwarber inject energy, pedigree into revamped Phillies

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Castellanos, Schwarber inject energy, pedigree into revamped Phillies
The Philadelphia Phillies signed Nick Castellanos (L) this off-season to team up with reigning National League MVP Bryce Harper. Photo by Miles Kennedy/Philadelphia Phillies

MIAMI, April 15 (UPI) -- The Philadelphia Phillies used off-season moves to adjust team mentality after missing the playoffs. Players say Nick Castellanos' edge and Kyle Schwarber's pedigree are among the contagions spreading in the clubhouse.

"They are two guys that have won where they've been, but two guys who are very different," Phillies first baseman Rhys Hoskins told UPI on Thursday before a loss to the Miami Marlins in Miami.

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"[Castellanos] brings a little bit of an edge. [Schwarber] brings a presence out on the field, but more so in here. When these guys talk, people listen. It's huge," Hoskins said.

Castellanos hit a career-high .309 with 34 homers and 100 RBIs last season for the Cincinnati Reds, who decided not to re-sign the All-Star outfielder this off-season.

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Castellanos said Thursday he initially thought he would join the Marlins in 2022, but instead signed with one of their National League East division rivals in late March, days after Schwarber's deal.

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Castellanos' grinding style at the plate, which makes every pitching exchange a long battle, is something the Phillies front office and teammates noticed while he was on other teams.

His emotional playing style also is something that players say they love when he is their teammate, but despised when he was a foe.

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"It's huge when you have players that other teams don't like to play against, but you love playing with them," Hoskins said.

"I don't know if it's quantifiable or not, but it gives you some sort of an advantage over an opponent. I think it has more to do with just the confidence that that guy instills in the rest of his teammates just by being here."

Schwarber, who won a World Series in 2016, is on his fourth team since 2020. The All-Star slugger told reporters at his March 21 introductory news conference that he "prioritized" joining the Phillies.

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"We are very happy to have him on board," Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said at that news conference.

"He brings a lot to our ball club, not only from an offensive perspective, but from a team makeup perspective that I think is so important for us to put a championship caliber club on the field."

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Schwarber missed the playoffs just once through his previous seven seasons. The Phillies' last postseason appearance came in 2011, four years before Schwarber's MLB debut.

The Phillies have MLB's fourth-highest payroll this season, but are among the Top 10 favorites to win the World Series. They also ranked fourth in payroll in 2021, when they finished second in the National League East.

They've ranked inside the Top 10 in payroll for each of the past three seasons and missed the playoffs each year.

"I'm excited for me to get the best out of them and for them to get the best out of me," Schwarber said at his news conference. "You try to do three things every day to help the team win -- on [offense], defense and in the clubhouse."

Hoskins said the energy that Castellanos and Schwarber provide should improve the team's composure and consistency for what can be a daunting 162-game, regular-season schedule.

"It shows its head with what we call the dog days, when it really does feel like a marathon," Hoskins said. "Those guys can bring a certain type of energy that kind of mitigates some of that feeling "

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Last season, the Phillies ranked ninth in batting average and had the sixth-worst pitching ERA among National League teams. They also ranked 15th among all MLB teams in home runs. They went on to finish 6 1/2 games behind the World Series champion Atlanta Braves in the division standings.

Reigning National League MVP Bryce Harper, who led the team in batting average, home runs and RBIs, said Dombrowski and Phillies owner John Middleton did a good job of "trying to piece together" the new group.

In addition to Castellanos and Schwarber, the Phillies added several relief pitchers to aid a bullpen that posted the sixth-highest ERA in the National League last season.

Harper said the acquisitions give the team "a chance to win the division, get into the playoffs and go deep into the playoffs."

"I'm excited to see what we can do," Harper said Thursday. "It looks good on paper, but we've got to put the work in to do the things we need to get deep into the playoffs and possibly win the World Series.

"A [World Series] is what we are playing for. We aren't playing for individual needs or contracts. That's where we need to be."

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Castellanos said he was aware of the Phillies overall talent over the last few years, but he didn't pay more attention to the franchise than any other team. He also said he doesn't know if he fills a direct need for any voids from last season.

"It's a tough thing to preemptively think about or say, 'Hey this is my role, this is how I fit in," Castellanos said. "That just kind of happens over time.

"I can just say what I bring. I'm somebody who is consistently focused on bettering myself and doing what I can for the team every day. Whatever role that falls into, it falls into."

The Phillies (3-4) face the Marlins (2-4) in the second game of their series at 6:40 p.m. EDT Friday in Miami.

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