Results tagged ‘ Cody Asche ’

First of Many Changes: Asche Moves to Left Field

Cody AscheThe Phillies are building for the future and they made their first significant in-season change last night when they optioned Cody Asche to Triple-A.

They want Asche to become a left fielder.

The organization believes Maikel Franco is its third baseman of the future. He is coming as early as Friday. He is hitting well in Triple-A. He plays an impressive third base. If he can play like that in the big leagues then he is the right choice. But the Phillies still like Asche and they see their outfield is lacking. (Phillies outfielders have a .623 OPS this season, which is 29th in baseball.) They think Asche’s offense could improve if he moves to a less stressful spot on the field like left.

“That’s a possibility,” Ryne Sandberg said. “I’ve seen that before and I think he has the ability to play a solid left field with the things he’s already done, with his foot speed and knowledge of the game and what I’ve seen in practice. He also has a good arm.”

Asche took the news hard. I’m sure he did not expect to return to the Minor Leagues to learn a new position. (One hopes they told him this was coming a couple weeks ago, but based on his reaction I think they did not.) But his ego also probably took a hit because the Phillies essentially told him, “We don’t think you’re good enough at third base.” That hurt is understandable. But like I wrote in the story above, there are numerous players that have made the transition from infielder to outfielder.

Craig Biggio, Robin Yount, Albert Pujols, Ryan Braun and Alex Gordon are just a few.

Nobody looks at those players as having failed anything. If Asche takes to left field and his offense improves and he establishes himself as a quality left fielder, nobody will look at him as a failed third baseman. They will look at him as a significant piece of the rebuilding process.

So what’s next for the Phillies? Cole Hamels, Jonathan Papelbon, Aaron Harang, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Carlos Ruiz remain on the trading block. Aaron Nola? He’ll continue to pitch in Double-A, but he could be in the big leagues before the end of the season. Ben Revere is expected to move to right field, although I don’t think the Phillies look at him as the long-term answer there. Revere could share time in right with Jeff Francoeur and Domonic Brown, once he rejoins the Phillies. Or the Phillies could trade Revere or Brown.

“We’ve been in dialogue about a lot of things,” Ruben Amaro Jr. said. “That really hasn’t stopped since the offseason. We still continue to kind of assess opportunities that we might have. The focus remains the same: we try to put ourselves in a position to improve the club and give young players an opportunity to come up here and see what they can do.”

Preparing for Franco: Asche Works In Left Field

Cody AscheThe Phillies made a small, but significant move yesterday when Cody Asche spent part of batting practice at Busch Stadium catching fly balls in left field.

Asche could be headed there in the future, especially once the Phillies promote Triple-A Lehigh Valley third baseman Maikel Franco, who is hitting .333 (28-for-84) with 10 doubles, one triple, one home run, 11 RBIs and an .883 OPS in 19 games.

Franco’s promotion is not imminent, but it nearly is inevitable. If the Phillies promote Franco before May 15 he could become a free agent in 2020 rather than 2021, so it would be surprising to see him in Phillies pinstripes any earlier. The Phillies also might avoid Franco earning Super 2 salary arbitration status if he is promoted after the first week of July.

But whether it is next month or closer to the All-Star break or some other time, Franco is coming if he keeps hitting.

“At some point we need to make sure that Cody is prepared,” Ruben Amaro Jr. said this afternoon. “It’s no secret that Maikel is doing very well down there. We want to try to create as much versatility with our guys as we possibly can.”

Asche worked a little in left field in Spring Training but the Phillies ultimately pulled the plug because they wanted him to prepare to be the team’s everyday third baseman. But when Franco joins the team Amaro wants him playing nearly every day. Franco can play first base, but he is regarded as a finer defensive third baseman than Asche, which is why they are seeing what else Asche can do.

“He’s primarily a third baseman,” Amaro said about Franco. “That’s his best position. That’s where I think his future lies. But his future could also lie at first. Again, it’s about creating as much versatility as you possibly can, particularly with our young guys and particularly with our younger guys who can swing the bat. We’re looking for people who are going to help us offensively. The whole point is getting as many of those guys as we can on the field.”

Asche has not played in the outfield since he became a professional, so throwing him out there midseason could be a challenge. But it has happened before. The Phillies moved Placido Polanco to the outfield in 2005 after spending his entire career in the infield. They did the same in 2013 with infielder Freddy Galvis.

“He’s a pretty good athlete,” Amaro said about Asche. “If it’s something we choose to do we would have to feel comfortable. Will he be a Gold Glover if he gets a chance to go out there? No. But we’ll have to decide if he’s athletic enough to do that. We think he is.”

Franco’s arrival and Asche’s potential move to left involves other players, too.

For instance, what does this mean for left fielder Ben Revere and first baseman Ryan Howard?

Amaro said Revere can play center field and right field, if needed. Odubel Herrea could be a candidate to move to right, although Amaro said Herrera seems much more comfortable in center. And the Big Piece?

“Howard is our first baseman,” Amaro said.

Amaro said Asche is not a candidate to move to second base, despite playing 64 games there for Class A Williamsport in 2011.

“Playing second base is very difficult for someone who has not played on the right side of the field,” Amaro said. “He did it briefly, but the pivot and the process of learning that is very difficult and a lot more difficult than people think. Middle infielders are more born. They’re not developed, necessarily.”

Asche will start at third base Wednesday night against the Cardinals. That should surprise nobody. It might be some time before Franco is promoted, plus Asche needs more time to learn left field.

The Phillies also need time to figure out how the rest of the dominoes might fall.

Week 1: Phillies .500, but Offense Offensive

Ryan HowardThe Phillies finished the first week of the season at 3-3, which is not bad everything considered.

They received strong starting pitching performances in four of six games. The pitching staff as a whole has a 3.38 ERA, which is 11th in baseball. They showed some fight as Ryne Sandberg said following today’s 4-3 loss in 10 innings to the Nationals. The Phillies overcame a seventh-inning deficit to win Friday, an eighth-inning deficit to win in 10 innings Saturday and tied the game in the seventh inning yesterday. They gave up two runs in the 10th, but made things interesting with a run scored in the bottom of the inning.

But the gigantic red flag that flapped in the wind in Clearwater, Fla., planted itself at home plate in Philadelphia:

No offense.

The Phillies are 28th in baseball with a .563 OPS, a percentage point or two ahead of the Mets (.563) and Twins (.515). They have scored just 16 runs in six games. Only the Twins (13) and Nationals (13) have scored fewer. They have hit just two home runs. Only the Twins (1) and Marlins (1) have hit fewer.

Everybody knew the offense would be an issue, which is why we have seen Sandberg use six lineups in seven games (including today’s game). He is searching for a winning combination, trying to find decent match ups and hot bats whenever they are available, although it will be interesting to see how he balances what is supposed to be a developmental year with his desire to win that night’s game. For example, he benched Cody Asche on Friday and Saturday for Andres Blanco. Sandberg said he liked the spark Blanco provided, but the Phillies should want to give Asche as many opportunities to play as possible this season. He could be part of the Phillies’ future, either at third base, left field or wherever. Blanco is not.

The same holds true for Ruf, who snapped an 0-for-11 slump with a pinch-hit homer this afternoon, and others.

*

A lot of people are unhappy with Ryan Howard, who struck out four times in four at-bats today. But you might as well relax because he is going to continue to play. First, who is he holding back? Ruf had 12 at-bats this week, which should be enough to show what he can do. And even if Maikel Franco were the hottest hitter in Triple-A, he would remain there until the end of May for the same reason Cubs prospect Kris Bryant opened the season in Triple-A: team control for an extra year. Second, it’s one week. I’m not suggesting Howard will return to MVP form with more time, but it doesn’t make sense to pull the plug on somebody owed $60 million just one week into the season.

The team is going to to struggle and Howard might struggle along with it, but he should get a good look.

Don’t Expect Franco Soon, Utley Trade Rumors

Chase UtleyIt sure doesn’t sound like Maikel Franco is an option to play third base while Cody Asche is on the disabled list.

“He’s just not playing good enough baseball yet,” Ruben Amaro Jr. said today at Citizens Bank Park. “He’s not really ready to be a big-leaguer yet.”

Franco returned to the IronPigs lineup yesterday after missing a couple days with an upper respiratory issue. He is hitting .231 with four home runs, 19 RBIs and a .669 OPS this season after a poor start, but he has hit .292 with an .851 OPS in 27 games since April 22.

But in those last 27 games, he is hitting just .125 (3 for 24) in his last seven.

Asche is on the DL with a strained left hamstring. The Phillies said they hope Asche can return June 7, when he is eligible to be activated. If that happens, it means there are just 10 more days for Franco to get a call up.

That isn’t much of a window to suddenly become a big leaguer in the eyes and minds of the Phillies front office. Meanwhile, Cesar Hernandez continues to play third base in Asche’s absence. He entered Tuesday hitting .129 (4-for-31).

“There’s no reason to bring Franco unless he’s ready to be a big leaguer as far as I’m concerned,” Amaro said. “If he puts together a few days. Offensively, he’s made some adjustments, he’s made some improvements better than in the earlier part of the season, but he’s not really going on all cylinders now. We’re still contemplating it. We’ll see how it goes.”

*

Are there Chase Utley trade rumors? If not, there will be soon, unless the team begins to play well.

“They surface because he’s a good player and we’re not in first place, that’s why they surface,” Amaro said.

But Amaro downplayed the suggestion the Phillies would trade one of their more iconic players.

“First off, no one wants to trade Chase Utley and No.2 I don’t think Chase Utley wants to go anywhere and he has the power to decide what he wants to do,” Amaro said. “The point is kind of moot. The same with Jimmy (Rollins). The same story.”

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.

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.

Hamels Embarrassed After Brutal Night

Cole HamelsEven after the fact, long after Cole Hamels suffered his worst start in nearly three years, he knew the Phillies and Mets needed to play.

It was a brutal night last night at Citizens Bank Park. It rained throughout the 6-1 loss. The wind never stopped blowing. The first-pitch temperature sat at 46 degrees. Hamels could not grip the ball. But knowing the Phillies had no games scheduled Monday and Thursday and with more rain scheduled Wednesday, the Phillies needed to play Tuesday otherwise they would go Monday through Thursday without playing a single game. And regardless of the conditions, sometimes you need to play to fit in a 162-game schedule.

Hamels walked four batters in an inning for the first time in his career. He walked a runner home for the fifth time in his career. Not a good night.

*

Jayson Nix went 0-for-3 last night, dropping Phillies third basemen’s OPS to a miniscule .478, which is the lowest mark in baseball. According to Stats Inc., the 1981 Blue Jays had a .516 OPS from their third basemen, which is the lowest mark in the majors from 1974-2013. Cody Asche‘s .584 OPS is better than Nix’s .446 and Freddy Galvis‘ .124. I understand Galvis is the team’s best defensive player, but he’s going to have to hit eventually because in the long run the defensive benefits won’t outweigh the offensive black hole he represents in the lineup.

And if you believe in modern metrics, Galvis has a -0.8 WAR, while Asche has a -0.7 and Nix has a -0.1.

Galvis had a .668 OPS last season. The Phillies would kill for that right now.

Ryno Makes Changes to Lineup

lineupRyne Sandberg isn’t the type of manager to find a lineup and stick with it.

He made considerable changes to his lineup following Monday’s 14-10 victory over the Rangers at Globe Life Stadium.

He has Marlon Byrd hitting fourth between Chase Utley and Ryan Howard tonight against Rangers left-hander Martin Perez. That itself should not surprise people. Sandberg hit Byrd fourth several times in Spring Training. Byrd also had a .959 OPS against lefties last season, which ranked 13th out of 173 qualifying players in baseball. Meanwhile, Howard has a .602 OPS against lefties from 2011-14, which ranks 203 out of 213 qualifying players.

But the move is noteworthy because Howard had started 665 consecutive regular-season games in the cleanup spot. The last time he started a game and did not hit fourth? June 29, 2008, in Texas.

Pat Burrell hit fourth that afternoon.

Sandberg also has Cesar Hernandez playing second base with Utley the DH. John Mayberry Jr. is starting in left field, giving Domonic Brown a day off. That’s a platoon move. Brown’s career splits: .794 OPS vs. righties to .672 OPS vs. lefties. Mayberry’s career splits: .852 OPS vs. lefties to .668 OPS vs. righties.

Cody Asche, who had a big game yesterday, also takes a seat to Jayson Nix at third base. Nix has a career .727 OPS against lefties, compared to a .602 OPS against righties. Asche has a .629 OPS against lefties in his brief big-league career, compared to a .762 OPS agianst righties.

Interesting stuff …

Asche Makes First Opener Memorable

Shawn Tolleson, Cody AscheThe Phillies sent Maikel Franco to Minor League camp on March 22, which guaranteed Cody Asche would be the Phillies’ Opening Day third baseman. (Truth be told, it was going to take a miracle for him not to be the starter.)

Asche said at the time he wouldn’t believe it until he saw his name in the lineup.

It was there as expected today at Globe Life Stadium. He went 3-for-4 with a double, home run, walk and two RBIs in a 14-10 victory over the Rangers. Ben Revere and Chase Utley also picked up three hits in the victory, with Jimmy Rollins and Marlon Byrd also hitting home runs.

The Phillies couldn’t have written the script much better, other than Cliff Lee not giving up seven runs through five innings. Asche’s couldn’t have been much better, either.

“I would compare it a little bit to that first day in the big leagues,” Asche said of his day. “It’s a new experience I’ve never had before. I’ve never played or started in an Opening Day game. Not really knowing what to expect, a lot of jitters and excitement, which is always good.”

Asche Wins Third Base Battle

Cody AscheCody Asche will be the Phillies’ Opening Day third baseman.

Ryne Sandberg did not exactly say it this afternoon following a 5-3 loss to the Pirates at McKechnie Field, but there is no other way to look at it. The Phillies announced this morning they had reassigned third baseman Maikel Franco, right-hander Sean O’Sullivan and outfielder Clete Thomas to Minor League camp.

The Phillies had billed Asche/Franco as a competition to be their third baseman.

Franco is gone, Asche remains.

“Uh, yeah,” Sandberg said, when asked about Asche as the Opening Day third baseman. “Well, I think it’s a combination of two things. Franco goes and gets seasoning and gets at-bats and works on things, probably more on the offensive side, shortening up his swing and getting some better line drive-type of contact. Now Cody plays in these games and gets ready for the start of the season and then we go from there.”

While the Phillies touted this as a true competition, the reality is Franco would have had to completely outplay Asche to have any shot at the job. Asche impressed the Phillies in 50 games late last season, while Franco has not played above Double-A.

Franco hit .184 (7-for-38) with two RBIs, two walks and six strikeouts in 16 games. After starting the spring 0-for-13, Asche has hit .250 (7-for-28) with two doubles, three home runs and six RBIs. He had started to come around earlier this spring, but got hit in the hand with a pitch, which set him back.

“I had kind of a tough go at it in the first two weeks and I was started getting comfortable and then got hit in the hand,” Asche said. “I had to sit for two days and you have to start over when you should be at a point of progression. I had to work through that for a little bit and I have been pretty happy with my last five to seven games with the at-bats I have had.”

Asked about being in the Opening Day lineup, Asche said, “Until my name is on the lineup card Day 1, it’s anybody’s job still. I can’t take anything for granted, whoever is down or whoever is here.”

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 341 other followers