Nick Castellanos is finding patience at the plate for the Phillies

Philadelphia Phillies

Nick Castellanos walked twice Wednesday night. In the past, he wouldn’t have been proud of it. He’s a free swinger, and it has mostly worked for him over 10 years in the majors. He isn’t paid to take his base.

But the slugging outfielder is beginning to see things differently.

The Phillies’ downfall in the NL Championship Series last year stemmed in large part from their team-wide tendency to swing at pitches out of the strike zone. Castellanos was — and always will be — among the worst offenders.

» READ MORE: The overpowering Phillies sweep the Rangers and confirm that they’re a team on a World Series mission

As a team, the Phillies focused in spring training on making better swing decisions. Initially, Castellanos didn’t take to it. He suggested that he was overthinking and becoming too passive. And his wretched start — he didn’t have an extra-base hit until his 79th plate appearance — only amplified his point.

Lately, though, Castellanos seems to be buying into the idea that more focus on laying off pitches out of the strike zone, especially breaking balls down and away, will force opponents to throw him more pitches in the zone.

Case in point: Castellanos homered in the seventh inning Thursday on a bottom-of-the-zone curveball that Rangers reliever Jesús Tinoco might have tried to spike if he thought Castellanos was going to swing at it.

“I think I’ve done a good job of hitting strikes,” Castellanos said. “Maybe that’s a result of me not chasing out of the zone as much. I got some good pitches to hit in the zone today. Maybe that’s a result of me taking my walks yesterday.”

Maybe. Although it’s not like Castellanos is on a tear. His homer against the Rangers was his first extra-base hit since May 12. He was in a 5-for-32 rut before he notched two hits in Thursday’s 5-2 victory.

Before the game, manager Rob Thomson suggested that Castellanos’ walks Wednesday night might be a harbinger for good things to come. It’s a message that hitting coach Kevin Long and his staff have been trying to get across in their daily conversations with Castellanos.

» READ MORE: A too-early MLB trade deadline preview: Teams to watch with players who could be fits for the Phillies

“Eventually, if you keep walking, they’re going to have to get in the zone, and then hopefully he starts doing some damage,” Thomson said. “It looks like they’re down and away, and if they throw a heater, it’s going to be up and in. Eventually, they’re going to have to get in the zone at some point.”

Thomson paused.

“Or not,” he said.

The Phillies believe it all depends on how disciplined Castellanos can be. Asked if he can lay off enough bad pitches to get more hittable ones, Castellanos said, “I’m going to have to, aren’t I?”

“I’m learning to, you know?” he added. “Walking has never been something that I’ve in the past strived for as a good thing. I’ve been so measured on how hard I’m hitting the ball consistently. But it’s never too late to learn something good. Just relax, wait for my pitch, and if I take four, then I take four.”

Turner’s timeline

Trea Turner (hamstring) traveled with the team and will hike the intensity of his running program to “85, probably 90%” in Colorado, according to Thomson. Turner could face live pitching when the Phillies return home on May 31.

Thomson said he expects Turner will go on a minor-league assignment before being reinstated from the injured list, likely within the first week or two of June.

The Phillies are 15-3 since Turner strained his left hamstring.

» READ MORE: Do the Phillies have the best Big Three in MLB? How they stack up to other formidable starter trios.

Extra bases

The Phillies have recorded seven sweeps in a span of 12 series for the first time since 1977. They hadn’t swept the Rangers since June 7-9, 2005. … J.T. Realmuto extended his career-long hitting streak to 13 games with a leadoff homer in the third inning. His homer Wednesday night was the 14,000th in Phillies history. The Yankees hold the all-time record with 17,077 homers through Wednesday. … Whit Merrifield started for the first time in a week and went 1-for-4. He has two hits in his last 24 at-bats. “I still have a lot of confidence in him,” Thomson said, “so we’re going to keep running him out there. I’m sure he’s going to get it going.” … Former Phillies outfielder Domonic Brown threw the ceremonial first pitch. … Cristopher Sánchez (2-3, 3.31 ERA) will start Friday night in Colorado against Rockies lefty Ty Blach (1-2, 5.14).

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