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Rojas showing important progress at the plate for a lineup that's clicking

After an offseason filled with work and adjustments, Johan Rojas was a player the Phillies weren’t going to give up on quickly.

They told him not to worry about his spring training results. They wanted him to focus on pitch recognition, a line-drive approach and better placement with his bunts.

He hit just .170 in camp, going 9-for-53 with nine strikeouts, but still made the Opening Day roster as the everyday center fielder.

The struggles continued in the Phillies’ first eight games of the season when Rojas went just 1-for-22 with an infield dribbler. But once the Phillies got to St. Louis, where Rojas had probably his best all-around series in 2023, things turned around.

His quality of contact improved. His pitch recognition improved. Perhaps most importantly, his confidence improved.

Rojas is 13-for-31 (.419) in his last 10 games with two doubles, two RBI, two walks, four stolen bases and two perfectly executed bunts.

“Quite a bit,” manager Rob Thomson said Saturday night of how much recent improvement the center fielder has shown. “I think he’s having pretty good at-bats.”

Rojas’ three-hit night Saturday included a two-out, two-strike RBI single between shortstop and third base. The at-bat began poorly with Rojas looking at a sinker over the heart of the plate, then swinging at a slider that was well outside and below the zone. But he hung in. Two pitches later, he got another sinker on the inside corner and laced it for a single.

Nick Castellanos also had three hits Saturday in a game that was fueled early by the bottom of the order.

“I think we saw a lot of that last year,” Trea Turner said. “It feels the same if not more depth than last year just with Ro getting his feet wet and Bryson (Stott) and (Brandon) Marsh and those guys really getting going down there, get Nick going too. I think that gives us a huge advantage. The pitcher never gets a chance to let up and breathe.”

Rojas stole a base Saturday night, then forced a balk to reach third. He swiped another bag after singling in the fourth inning Sunday. He’s 6-for-7 in stolen base attempts this season and 20-for-22 as a big-leaguer. He might be the fastest player on a team that includes Turner, and his jumps have been massive. Rojas is often halfway to second base as the pitcher is planting his foot. His walks and singles will often become “doubles,” which is why just getting on base is enough.

Rojas is hitting .264 with a .328 on-base percentage, numbers the Phillies would gladly take out of the 9-spot from a potential Gold Glove center fielder.

“I think you have to see it night after night for a while to figure it out,” Thomson said. “but he’s certainly better and right now, he’s holding his own.”