Phillies Bring Back Kentucky Bluegrass to Infield

It's the type of turf the team had during the 2008 World Series run.

The old infield, during the 2015 season.

The old infield, during the 2015 season.

The Phillies are bringing Kentucky bluegrass back to their infield — the same type of turf they played on during the earliest years of Citizens Bank Park, including the 2008 World (Bleeping) Series championship.

The club had replaced the turf with Bermuda grass before the 2012 season, since Bermuda can take the punishment of hot summers and 80-plus games a little better. But players didn’t like it much.

The Wall Street Journal this week named the Phillies’ turf switch one of the changes to look for across the league this 2016 season:

The Phillies won a World Series in 2008 playing on a home turf of Kentucky bluegrass. In 2012, they switched to a hardy breed called Bermuda, in part to handle the foot-traffic of revenue-generating concerts on non-game days. Bermuda is best when cut very short, and ground balls have been zipping toward infielders like Titleists on fast fairways. They’ll resod with Kentucky blue this season. It can be cut a little longer, slowing down grounders. It’s good news for pitchers, if they can keep batted balls on the ground. Last year the “ground out to air out” ratio for Phillies pitchers was fifth worst in the league, according to Easier-to-field bouncers might help.

But the Bermuda was initially welcomed with high praise — by the Phillies’ groundskeepers at least.

“Bluegrass doesn’t like the heat,” Mike Boekholder, the Phillies’ head groundskeeper, told the Daily News in 2012. “But with Bermuda grass, the hotter and nastier it gets outside, the more it’s growing to beat the band — a much thicker, smoother canopy.”

It was clear by this spring, though, that players and coaches were ready to go back to the original turf.

“The hops were fine on the old infield,” pitching coach Bob McClure told CSN’s Jim Salisbury. “It was just fast. In my opinion, if you’re giving up fly balls in our ballpark, we’ve got problems. We’re stressing getting the ball on the ground early in the count so we have to give our infielders a chance. [The new infield] is more conducive to what we’re trying to do. Pitching and defense can keep you in a lot of games.”

Follow @joelmmathis on Twitter.