Asche to DL

ascheCody Asche did not seem happy this morning at Citizens Bank Park.

It became clear why a couple hours later when the team announced Asche had been placed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left hamstring. The Phillies recalled right-hander Justin De Fratus from Triple-A Lehigh Valley to take his place on the roster.

The Phillies had been a man short in the bullpen since placing right-hander Luis Garcia on the DL on Friday, which is why they replaced a position player with a pitcher.

Asche only shrugged this morning when asked if his left hamstring had improved. He had not played since Thursday because of the injury. He tested the hamstring in the morning with some light jogging.

“No improvement,” Ryne Sandberg said.

Asche said yesterday he has been playing through the discomfort for about six or seven games. The athletic training staff had been treating it, but it did not like the way it seemed to be headed.

They hoped rest could help.

“We’re just trying to kill it right now,” Asche said yesterday. “We’ve got a pretty important stretch right now.”

Asche had been playing well offensively this month, hitting .317 with five doubles, three home runs, 12 RBIs and a .956 OPS in 17 games.

Cesar Hernandez started his third consecutive game at third base today.

Revere’s Talks Big Day, Rough Season

Ben RevereBen Revere had one of the lowest on-base percentages of any leadoff hitter in baseball, but Ryne Sandberg returned him to the top spot today against the Dodgers.

Sandberg had a hunch and it worked. Revere tied a career-high with four hits and scored three runs in a 5-3 victory.

“If he’s swinging the bat well and getting on base, he creates something at the top with Jimmy (Rollins) following him, two good base runners,” Sandberg said. “Two good guys at the top of the order. Jimmy’s fine first or second. He’s been consistent all year. For Ben to really give us a push and get on base in a big way, he’s helping us in the leadoff spot. That’s a good spot for him.”

Revere, who hit first for the first time since May 14, hit a leadoff double down the right-field line in the first inning and scored on Chase Utley‘s two-run homer to right to give the Phillies a 2-0 lead. It was Revere’s first double since July 8, 2013, a span of 43 games and 168 plate appearances. Revere singled to score a run in the second and later scored on Rollins’ single to right to make it 4-0.

Revere is hitting .289 with one double, two triples, six RBIs, three walks, 17 strikeouts and a .625 OPS in 153 plate appearances this season.

“Again I broke my ankle last year, surgery, going to have days where it’s going to be sore, it’s going to be good,” Revere said, referring to the July surgery on his right foot which ended his season. “I’m finding my way just to get my groove back and everything. It may take some time because I’ve talked to other guys that had the same surgery as mine. It’s going to be a little bit, but eventually you’re going to get going. Being around this average, close to .300, at this time after the surgery is pretty impressive. People thought I’d probably lose my speed, my timing, no, I feel pretty good.”

Entering Saturday, Revere’s .289 on-base percentage hitting first ranked 26th out of 29 hitters with 100 or more plate appearances in the leadoff spot.

Asche Rests Ailing Hamstring

Cody AscheRyne Sandberg had a reason not to play Phillies third baseman Cody Asche today.

Asche is battling tendinitis in the left hamstring tendon. Cesar Hernandez started at third for a second consecutive game.

“Nothing severe,” Asche said. “I’ve been playing through it for about six or seven games. I don’t think the training staff really liked the way it was headed, so we’re just trying to kill it right now. We’ve got a pretty important stretch right now.”

Asche missed some time in early April because of a hamstring issue.

“It’s a little bit different,” he said.

Fundamentals? Fundamentals

Ben Revere, A.J. EllisYou learn something new every day at the ballpark?

For example, until last night I had been told a base runner on third with no outs and a ball hit in the air should be near the bag so he can tag up to at least try to score. But when Ben Revere did not tag to try to score when Domonic Brown hit a sinking line drive to Dodgers left fielder Carl Crawford in the seventh inning in a 2-0 loss, the explanation afterward was that it was OK.

Most coaches or players who saw that play would be puzzled by that answer.

“You know what?” Ryne Sandberg said. “From my angle, that’s a tough call. It looked like a sure base hit, it was so shallow. I was surprised he made a catch on that. That was a tough call. I don’t know if it’s a shoestring catch, if he scores or not, if he does catch the ball. Definitely a big play though.”

Revere said he only tags if there is one out. If there are no outs he is running all the way.

“I was going no matter what,” he said. “The ball just kind of stayed up in the air. I thought it was going to land, and he made the catch with no outs. With one out I usually go back and tag, but, nah, I thought that ball was going to be down for sure off the bat.”

So the play there with no outs is don’t tag up?

“It was like a line drive, so I kind of froze, saw it in the air and that’s when … I was going on contact anyway, and I saw it, and it got closer, I was like, ‘This is going to be down,’ but he came in (and got it),” Revere said. “Usually with one out I go back and tag.”

Sandberg has stressed fundamentals constantly since the beginning of spring training. There have been countless drills. Infield drills. Outfield drills. Base running drills. Asked last night about those efforts and if he has seen enough improvement, Sandberg didn’t offer an answer.

“I think once again, that play right there is a tough call,” he said. “If he’s playing that shallow, or if he traps it, a shoestring non-catch, he’s got to be able to score there. Other than that, the guys battled. Pitching was outstanding tonight. Like I said, we did have three opportunities with two men on and no outs.”

Pettibone’s Health a Growing Concern

Jonathan PettiboneTriple-A right-hander Jonathan Pettibone has a small tear in his right shoulder, but for now the treatment is a cortisone injection and rest.

Pettibone received a second opinion yesterday on his injured shoulder from noted orthopedist James Andrews, and Ruben Amaro Jr. said there was no difference in the original diagnosis. Pettibone was presented with three options: have an exploratory scope, received a PRP (platelet-rich plasma) injection or receive a cortisone injection.

This is Pettibone’s second cortisone injection this year. He received his first in February.

“He’s going to rest it until the 31st and then start a throwing program,” Amaro said. “I don’t have any timeline after that. It’ll just depend on how he feels, how he’s progressing.”

But it is a SLAP tear (Superior Labrum Anterior to Posterior), which can be serious.

“It depends on the player and how big it is,” Amaro said. “It’s not a big one. It’s pretty small. But it’s uncomfortable for him. You pitch to comfort. … They can get better. You can strengthen the muscles and tissue around it. Some of them do and some of them don’t.”

Pettibone’s shoulder is a legitimate concern because this is the third time he has had to stop pitching in less than a year because of it. He finished last season on the disabled list before falling behind schedule in Spring Training because of shoulder pain.

His health also becomes more important with Cliff Lee on the disabled list with a left elbow injury.

“We’ll see how he manages through it,” Amaro said of Pettibone. “Who was the closer from Cleveland we passed on (before the 2007 season)? Joe Borowski. He had a full thickness tear in his labrum and he pitched through it. A lot of it depends on the pitcher and the comfort.”

Rollins Ties Whitey

Jimmy RollinsJimmy Rollins said Sunday his pursuit of the franchise’s all-time hits record isn’t going fast enough.

But he seems to be on a pretty good pace. Just a few days after he passed Ed Delahanty for sole possession of third place on the Phillies’ hit list, he picked up two hits last night at Marlins Park to tie Richie Ashburn for second place with 2,217 hits. The hit that tied “Whitey” came on a single to right field in the fifth inning.

Rollins needs just 17 more hits to tie Mike Schmidt‘s mark of 2,234 hits.

What Can the Phillies Do? Hope, Pray for Improvement

Ryne SandbergI wrote yesterday about how the Phillies’ only option to save their season is crossing their fingers and hoping for the best.

There isn’t much more they can do beyond that. They have the third-highest payroll in baseball, so it isn’t like they haven’t spent money. They have a roster loaded with former All-Stars, MVPs, Cy Youngs and World Series champions, so it isn’t like they have a roster full of nobodys. But things are not going well. Only the lowly Diamondbacks and Astros have been outscored more than the Phillies this season, and run differential tells the story. No team has made the postseason with a negative run differential since the 2007 Diamondbacks (minus-20) won the National League West.

The only reason the Phillies are 17-21 and not worse is because their aging core is playing well:

  • Chase Utley‘s .973 OPS is the eighth highest out of 179 qualifying players in Major League Baseball.
  • Marlon Byrd‘s .819 OPS is 18th out of 76 outfielders.
  • Jimmy Rollins‘ .796 OPS is fifth out of 25 shortstops.
  • Carlos Ruiz‘s .797 OPS is ninth out of 25 catchers.
  • Ryan Howard‘s .776 OPS overall is well below his career average (.902), but he is on pace for 30 home runs and 93 RBIs.

The Phillies are getting some of the worst production in baseball in left field, center field and third base, where they are counting on players no older than 26. Domonic Brown‘s .591 OPS is 71st and Ben Revere‘s .602 OPS is 70th among 76 outfielders. Cody Asche‘s .684 OPS is 17th out of 23 third basemen. The Phillies’ young relievers also haven’t delivered. When 44 percent of a lineup (third base, left field, center field and pitcher) is a routine out and almost everybody in the bullpen is struggling it is impossible to get on a roll.

Random thoughts: It’s time to drop Revere and his .284 on-base percentage from the top of the lineup. Yes, Revere has fantastic speed, but Ryne Sandberg is giving one of the least productive hitters in baseball more opportunities to hit than any other hitter in his lineup. Remember, each spot a hitter drops in the lineup represents 15 to 20 fewer plate appearances per season. So by having Revere hit first and Ruiz (.385 OBP) hit seventh, he is giving Revere about 100 more plate appearances over the course of a season than Ruiz, who gets on base at a good clip. … I would say Sandberg should platoon Brown and John Mayberry Jr. in left field, but Brown’s splits are flipped. He has a .511 OPS against right-handers, but a .790 OPS against left-handers. Meanwhile, Mayberry has an .808 OPS against lefties, but a .154 OPS against righties. I would even say Mayberry should play a little more in center, considering Revere’s arm and route running doesn’t make him indispensable defensively, but Revere’s splits are flipped like Brown’s. Revere has a .466 OPS against righties and an .837 OPS against lefties. … If Darin Ruf plays well in Triple-A perhaps he should be up soon. The Phillies have to try something in the outfield.

Struggling Bench Shuffled Again

Freddy GalvisThe Phillies shuffled their struggling bench once more today.

They announced they had outrighted utility infielder Jayson Nix from the 40-man roster. It follows Thursday’s move, when they optioned utility infielder Freddy Galvis to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Galvis fractured his left clavicle yesterday in a game with the IronPigs. He is expected to miss several weeks, although the club said his recovery timetable has not been determined.

The Phillies said a move to replace Nix on the 25-man roster will be made before Tuesday’s game against the Angels at Citizens Bank Park. First baseman/outfielder Darin Ruf could be a possibility. He continued his rehab assignment Monday with Lehigh Valley. Double-A Reading infielder Cesar Hernandez also is an option.

It seems less likely Triple-A third baseman Maikel Franco is a serious consideration because the Phillies view him more than a bench player and limited at-bats in the big leagues could curtail his development. He just started to swing the bat well after a terribly slow start.

Reid Brignac, who replaced Galvis on the roster Friday, currently is the only utility infielder on the big-league roster.

Neither Galvis or Nix produced offensively, which is a theme for the Phillies bench. Nix, who can elect to become a free agent, hit .154 with one home run, two RBIs and a .445 OPS in 43 plate appearances. Galvis, who opened the season on the 15-day disabled list following a MRSA infection in his left knee in Spring Training, hit just .048 with a .156 OPS in 46 plate appearances.

Outfielder John Mayberry Jr. is hitting .138 with a .562 OPS in 35 plate appearances, and outfielder Tony Gwynn Jr. is hitting .189 with a .521 OPS in 63 plate appearances.

Gwynn, Mayberry, Galvis and Nix hit a combined .135 (22-for-163) with three doubles, two home runs and nine RBIs.

Galvis Optioned

Freddy GalvisThe Phillies optioned Freddy Galvis to Triple-A Lehigh Valley following tonight’s 12-6 loss to the Blue Jays.

They said they will make a corresponding move before tomorrow night’s game against the Mets at Citi Field. Triple-A infielder Reid Brignac is a possibility. He is hitting .284 with five home runs and 21 RBIs in 30 games. He hit two homers today.

Galvis’ demotion did not come as a surprise. He went 0-for-3 with one walk and one strikeout. He is hitting .048 (2-for-42) with one RBI, three walks and 12 strikeouts in 16 games.

“He needs to go, play, get at-bats and gather himself a little bit,” Ryne Sandberg said. “He might have been rushed up here a little bit, with not having Spring Training.”

Galvis missed some time in March when he suffered a MRSA infection in his left knee.

“I missed a lot of games,” Galvis said. “I missed a lot of at-bats. That’s why I’m going down, you know? To get my at-bats, try to get my approach and try to swing the bat better. I don’t feel sad. I don’t feel bad or nothing. I’m just going to go there and work on my hitting. That’s it.”

Camp Out, Garcia Up

Luis GarciaThe Phillies’ bullpen shuffle continues.

They announced today they have outrighted right-hander Shawn Camp to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Camp, who had a 5.40 ERA in three appearances after allowing four hits and two runs in 1 2/3 innings last night against Toronto, has the option of becoming a free agent.

Right-hander Luis Garcia has been recalled from Lehigh Valley to take Camp’s place.

Phillies assistant general manager Benny Looper said last week that Garcia was pitching better than anybody in the Triple-A bullpen, which currently includes three pitchers that opened the season with the Phillies: right-handers Brad Lincoln, Justin De Fratus and B.J. Rosenberg. Right-hander Phillippe Aumont and left-handers Jeremy Horst and Cesar Jimenez also have pitched for the Phillies.

Garcia is 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA and six saves in 11 appearances with the IronPigs. In 13 2/3 innings, he has allowed nine hits, one unearned run, four walks and has struck out 13.

Garcia had a 3.73 ERA in 24 appearances last season with the Phillies, but he walked 23 and struck out 23 in 31 1/3 innings.

Right-hander Ethan Martin, who could be a bullpen option at some point, made his second rehab appearance Wednesday with Class A Clearwater. He allowed two hits in one inning. He is recovering from right shoulder and triceps capsule strains.

Double-A closer Ken Giles had a 1.29 ERA in 14 innings. He has allowed eight hits, two earned runs, five walks and has struck out 27. Looper said last week that Giles needs to improve his fastball command – he has thrown too many fastball up in the strike zone – as well as improve his slider. Looper said Giles’ next move likely would be to Triple-A, although he offered no timetable for that.

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