Progress is being made in Reading's Fred Zone

Reading's Freddy Galvis has already matched most of last year's offensive numbers.
Reading's Freddy Galvis has already matched most of last year's offensive numbers. (AL MESSERSCHMIDT / Getty Images)
Posted: July 21, 2011

When he hears Freddy Galvis whistle, Mark Parent is torn.

The whistle means that Galvis wants his manager to hit him ground balls at shortstop - a full 5-gallon pail in the hot afternoon sun before the Reading Phillies play another Double A game.

Parent appreciates the work ethic, but, man, another 50 grounders?

Parent's wearied mind and body never hesitate. He's in love, like, well, a father might be.

"I'd kill for the kid," Parent said.

Galvis is 21, and he is making the best of a crucial season of development. He might never hit 20 home runs, or steal 20 bases, or hit at the top of a major league lineup. He might earn his money with leather and grace.

What the Phillies know now is, wherever Galvis tops out, it will be at the top of his potential.

Perhaps with the specter of losing Jimmy Rollins to free agency and with no replacement ready in their farm system, this past fall and winter the Phillies offered Galvis 2 months of expense-paid personal training at their facility in Clearwater, Fla. He was in the middle of the season in his Venezuelan league, living the life of a semi-big shot at home, looking forward to rest and holidays.

"They said, 'It would be good for your career,' '' he recalled, chuckling at the club's lack of subtlety.

He got the message .

In Clearwater, the Phillies put Galvis through paces that transformed his body. Plyometrics, weight training and calisthenics added 10 pounds of solid mass, mostly in his legs, so he now carries a legitimate 185 pounds on his 5-10 frame.

He jumped on boxes and then jumped down. He pulled golf carts in one direction then pushed them back.

"It looks ridiculous when you do it," Galvis agreed, "but after you've done it, you feel so strong."

Galvis is hitting .263 for the R-Phils, usually leading off for the best hitting team in the Eastern League. That's 30 points better than last year. His two doubles in New Hampshire on Monday gave him 18, two more than in all of 2010, and his four triples match his output at Reading last season.

His seven home runs match his output for the last two seasons. As summer's dog days approach, he is rosy-cheeked, strong and productive.

He was 8-for-18 over the last four games entering last night. And his dazzling smile beamed Sunday as he said, "I'm so glad I did it [going to Clearwater]."

So are the Phillies. As far as middle infield prospects, he's almost all they've got.

Second baseman Cesar Hernandez, also 21 and Venezuelan, is feeling his way up the ladder of Class A ball. But Hernandez, while very quick, is only 5-10 and 160 pounds. Galvis, a switch-hitter with less speed, appears much closer to contributing.

"His defensive abilities are well-documented and that has continued, even though he's made a few more errors this year," said Chuck LaMar, the Phils' minor league czar. "It's more that he tries to make plays that other shortstops at the level don't try to make, so his errors are not a concern. He's a fine defender. It's just a matter of being able to put the bat on the ball and compete offensively at the major league level."

Galvis' 14 errors might seem a bit high (he had 13 last season and 11 at three levels combined in 2009), but they are so because his exceptional range gets him to balls other players cannot touch. Now, with a stronger arm, he's trying to make tougher throws.

Of course, he could practice temperance.

"Sometimes, I'll get to a ball in the hole, and I'll throw to first and it will be a short-hop and get the error," Galvis said. "It's one of the things I have to learn with experience. I have to know, if I'm not going to get it, to not throw it, and save that extra base."

He has to know, too, when to accept a day off.

Despite his preseason conditioning and his in-season maintenance, Galvis still lagged through a slump in late June and early July that saw his average fall 20 points in 13 games. He arrived at the Eastern League All-Star break last week with his tongue hanging out.

"Sometimes you feel a little bit tired. That's the truth; you feel a little bit tired, this time of the year. It's hot," Galvis said. "You have to go back and do what you were doing earlier in the season."

The snub could prove to be a godsend.

"It was really good," he said. "I relaxed. I was, like, 'Wow. It really helped me.' ''

Refreshed, Galvis reset himself. Hitting coach Frank Cacciatore again stressed shrinking his strike zone, controlling his swings, and Galvis obliged.

Sunday, he slapped a sizzling fastball from Yankees lefthanded prospect Manny Banuelas to rightfield. He managed an effective sacrifice.

Offensively, he is projecting confidence. He knows he has to convince the organization that he can handle big-league pitching - an organization whose minor league chief, LaMar, last year said that Galvis would never be an outstanding offensive player.

"I always hear stuff like that," Galvis said, his eyes sparkling. "In this world, nobody can say what you can do. That's what they say, but that's not how I feel."

Right now, he feels bigger, but, "solid, not fat."

He has forsaken the McDonald's Extra Value Meals for the Under-500 Calories portion of Applebee's menu. He is getting up at 9 a.m. to hit the gym and down a protein shake. He is religiously exercising his throwing arm, which progressed from below-average to major league acceptable this winter, but still has a long way to go before it matches, say, Rollins.'

And, program or no program, Galvis is a small, young man playing the most demanding position outside of catcher in a witheringly demanding game. It will be Parent's job to make sure the June swoon doesn't resurface in August.

"We just don't want to run him into the ground," Parent said. "He's still a little guy. A little boy. He's got a long future."

For now, for the second straight year, that future is in Reading.

"That's fine," Galvis said. "As long as I know I'm getting better, that's OK by me."

Staff writer Joe Berkery contributed to this story.

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