Results tagged ‘ Maikel Franco ’
The Phillies signed Ryan Howard to a five-year, $125 million contract extension in April 2010 partly because they believed making a deal more than a year before he hit free agency would become a bargain with fellow first basemen Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder and Adrian Gonzalez scheduled to hit free agency at the same time.
It hasn’t worked as planned.
Howard is struggling through arguably the worst season of his career, following two injury-riddled seasons, and Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg is ready to look at other options at first base, something unimaginable just a few years ago.
“I know what Ryan Howard can do,” Sandberg said this afternoon at Citizens Bank Park. “I think it’s also important to see what other guys can do.”
Darin Ruf started at first base against Giants left-hander Madison Bumgarner, and he could be there more often going forward, although Sandberg said that decision will be made daily. Triple-A infielder Maikel Franco could see playing time at first, if he gets healthy and gets called up in September. Asked if this means he is looking for Howard’s replacement at first base, Sandberg said, “No, but I think it’s also important to see and gauge other players to see where they’re at.”
Howard is making $25 million this season, which makes him the highest-paid position player in baseball. He has $60 million remaining on his contract over the next two seasons, which includes a $10 million buyout on a club option worth $23 million in 2017.
Sandberg said the massive contract isn’t a factor in filling out his lineup card.
“It’s also about wins and losses out here,” Sandberg said. “When the game starts it’s about winning the game and being productive and chipping in and doing the part and doing something to help win a game. If that means playing somebody else there and there’s production right away that’s trying to win a baseball game.”
It could come in the form of trades before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, injured players finally getting healthy or Minor Leaguers finally getting a shot.
“It’s disappointing, particularly the offense,” Amaro said about the Phillies’ performance. “What more can you say other than we’re not swinging the bats very well? I didn’t anticipate our guys being this poor. Because they are. They are this poor. We think that they’re better. But they haven’t shown it. So at some point we’re going to have to make some changes. Some guys, once they are ready to play, may be factors for us.”
The Phillies hit just .206 and averaged just 2.56 runs a game over their recent 3-13 slide. They hit .148 with runners in scoring position in that stretch. For the season, the Phillies are 26th in baseball in runs per game (3.75) and 29th in OPS (.661), despite having a franchise-record $180 million payroll and nearly every high-paid hitter healthy.
Possible changes include Triple-A outfielders Darin Ruf and Grady Sizemore and infielders Maikel Franco and Freddy Galvis.
“Whoever else in the organization may be factors for us,” Amaro said. “We have to get them healthy and see if it behooves us to make any of those changes.”
Ruf is recovering from a knee and wrist injury, Sizemore can opt out of his contract over the All-Star break if he is not in the Phillies’ plans, Galvis is recovering from a broken collarbone and Franco is trying to get on track after struggling most of the season.
Franco, who was the organization’s top hitting prospect entering the season, is hitting .342 (13-for-38) with two doubles, one triple, one home run and eight RBIs in the past nine games.
“He’s swinging the bat well,” Amaro said. “Hey, listen, I’m looking for people who can swing the bat. Because we’re not doing it here. If he gets to the point where he starts swinging the bat consistently, he’s a guy who could be in play too.”
But Franco plays third base and Phillies third baseman Cody Asche warrants a longer look. Could both be on the field at the same time?
“Yeah, because he could play first base, too,” Amaro said about Franco.
Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard is hitting .230 with 14 home runs, 51 RBIs and a .701 OPS, which ranks 114th out of 165 qualifying hitters in baseball.
Amaro said there is still interest in his players, despite their poor play recently. He also said the front office has been active in pursuing improvements.
“Whether we’ll actually get it done or if there is something that can improve us, it depends on how our club is being evaluated,” Amaro said. “If we’re going to make changes, we make changes to get better. Everything we think about is thinking about how we can improve our club. Will we be better? That’s what you have to analyze.”
“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.”
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.
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.”
Do the early losses bother Ryne Sandberg? It is just one week of Spring Training, after all.
“Absolutely,” he said. “I don’t like losses. You like to win games. It seems like in some of these games it’s been a one-inning type of thing. A crooked number in one inning. But our offense hasn’t come alive to overcome a crooked number by the other team. Six hits tonight, the two-run homer by (Marlon) Byrd and then we’re quiet after the third inning. So a lot of zeroes up there on the offensive side.”
The Phillies finished the night hitting just .194, which is the worst mark in baseball this spring.
But it is just one week of games. Countless players have had poor springs and played well during the regular season, so not much can be read into it.
“It seems to me like we get the bases loaded every game and don’t get anything out of it,” Sandberg said. “We get two guys on and we don’t get anything out of it. It’s about getting a big hit in an early Spring Training game like this. It seems like we haven’t had too much offense later in the games. It’s something we have to work on. With more at-bats usually the guys start swinging the bat better.”
Maikel Franco has impressed the Phillies early in camp.
Erik Kratz talks about going on the Phillies cruise after the Phillies traded him, and Larry Andersen and Scott Franzke go Western with bolo ties.
The Phillies yesterday announced they have invited five more players to Spring Training as non-roster invitees.
The quintet includes left-hander Jesse Biddle, third baseman Maikel Franco, right-hander Ken Giles, left-hander Mario Hollands and catcher Sebastian Valle. MLB.com ranks Biddle and Franco as the top two prospects in the organization, respectively.
Biddle went 5-14 with a 3.64 ERA in 27 starts last season with Double-A Reading. Franco hit a combined .320 with 31 home runs and 103 RBIs in 134 games between Class A Clearwater and Reading. Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Franco could compete with Cody Asche for a job at third base, although Asche is the favorite.
Biddle is expected to open the season with Triple-A Lehigh Valley.
Giles is a hard thrower, striking out 16 in 10 1/3 innings in the Arizona Fall League. He went 2-2 with a 6.31 ERA with Clearwater, although he was limited to just 24 appearances because of injury.
Hollands went 7-3 with a 2.86 ERA in 27 appearances (20 starts) with Clearwater and Reading. The Phillies recently removed Valle from the 40-man roster. He had been the top catching prospect in the organization, but Cameron Rupp and Tommy Joseph surpassed him last season.
The Phillies have invited 16 players to camp as non-roster invitees: pitchers Biddle, Shawn Camp, Giles, Hollands, Cesar Jimenez, Jeff Manship and Sean O’Sullivan; catchers Lou Marson and Valle; infielders Andres Blanco, Reid Brignac and Franco; and outfielders Leandro Castro, Tony Gwynn Jr., Dave Sappelt and Clete Thomas.
If you look at the projected Opening Day lineup you see many of the names you see today: Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Domonic Brown, Ben Revere and Cody Asche. That’s five left-handed hitters. You also have Jimmy Rollins, who is stronger from the left side of the plate. That has had a few people wondering if the Phillies could take a run at Cuban slugger Jose Dariel Abreu.
But one source said yesterday it doesn’t seem to be a fit because Abreu is a hulking first baseman and is not a candidate to play the outfield.
In other words, Ryan Howard is in his way. He has three years and $85 million remaining on his contract.
But so is Darin Ruf and Maikel Franco. Ruf has pop and can play first base. Franco is the organization’s top hitting prospect. He came up as a third baseman, but the Phillies are trying him at first base to give them more options. If Franco becomes what the Phillies project him to be they already have a right-handed first baseman with pop. And at a whole lot less money.