Galvis honored to be representing Venezuela

Phils shortstop an important piece for Aguilas del Zulia in Caribbean Series

Galvis honored to be representing Venezuela

CULIACAN, Mexico -- Freddy Galvis is here because he wants to be here.

The Phillies' shortstop is the heart and soul of Venezuela's Aguilas del Zulia, and he says it's an honor to represent his country at the Caribbean Series this week at Estadio Tomateros.

Galvis, who will report to Florida for Spring Training soon, has been around long enough to know that it's always a good idea for players to show up to camp game-ready or close. It's particularly important when you have a top prospect that plays the same position breathing down your neck like he does.

"My commitment was to be with [Zulia] no matter how far it went," Galvis, 27, said. "Thank God, I got the permission [from the Phillies] to play. I have never been in a Caribbean Series, so this is a beautiful experience and we are here to work hard to give our best."

Galvis' winter break was brief. He almost literally had no offseason. The infielder hit .183 (11-for-60) with one home run, four RBIs and a .570 OPS in 15 regular-season games for Zulia. He later hit .305 (18-for-59) with five RBIs and a .766 OPS in 14 postseason games.

"It always helps to keep playing. It keeps your timing. It was something that I always had planned on doing, to keep working, to keep playing," Galvis said. "As far as the Philadelphia team is concerned, it's a young team that is going through a rebuilding process. It is very talented and we have to really focus on playing as a team to win more games."

On Thursday afternoon, Galvis finished 2-for-4 in Venezuela's 4-3 victory against Puerto Rico's Criollos de Caguas. Galvis' team will play Mexico's Aguilas de Mexicali on Friday night.

"Freddy with the regular season and playoffs combined, I think he hit around .260 with [one home run], but we would not have had the run we had in January if it wasn't for him," said Zulia general manager Luis Amaro, the brother of former Philadelphia general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. "He's the kind of player that you toss out the scouting report on, because the intangibles he brings to the field don't have a column for it in the scouting reports. His instincts and baseball IQ are off the charts and he's a natural-born leader who works and plays harder than anyone on the field on any given day."

Some of Galvis' accomplishments can be quantified.

Last season, he hit .241 with 26 doubles, three triples, 20 home runs, 67 RBIs and a .673 OPS in 624 plate appearances for the Phillies.

According to the fielding metric UZR, or Ultimate Zone Rating, an all-encompassing measure of how well a player fields his position compared to other fielders, Galvis played Gold Glove-caliber defense and ranked fifth among shortstops behind San Francisco's Brandon Crawford, Cleveland's Francisco Lindor, the Angels' Andrelton Simmons and the Cubs' Addison Russell.

Galvis' sliding stop

At .274, he also had the worst on-base percentage in baseball.

That's part of the reason Galvis could be challenged by J.P. Crawford, the organization's top prospect and ranked the No. 7 prospect in the game. Crawford will open the season with Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

"J.P. Crawford is a talented shortstop, but Galvis is going to give the Phillies' front office and coaches a nice headache while he is with the team," Amaro said. "He makes everyone around him want to be better, and that was a huge reason why we were in sync down the stretch."

For now, Galvis' focus is on the Caribbean Series. Venezuela has won seven tournament titles overall, but has not won the championship since 2009. Zulia won the Caribbean Series title in 1984 and '89.

"This is a very balanced team," Galvis said. "This is a team that has good pitching, we have experienced players, and most important, we have the great desire of coming out as champions."

Jesse Sanchez, who has been writing for MLB.com since 2001, is a national reporter based in Phoenix. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.