Phillies Notes: Phils try top prospect Franco at first base

Former Phillies manager Charlie Manuel continued his farewell tour at Liberty Place in Center City with WPHT radio host Ricky Ricardo.       ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff Photographer
Former Phillies manager Charlie Manuel continued his farewell tour at Liberty Place in Center City with WPHT radio host Ricky Ricardo.       ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff Photographer
Posted: August 26, 2013

Maikel Franco bashed his 29th homer Saturday afternoon, a day that was noteworthy because the Phillies' top prospect played a new position. He moved across the diamond to start at first base for the first time in his career.

"It's just to give him another position he could go to," assistant general manager Benny Looper said. "His bat is coming quick, it looks like. He's probably going to be limited to third or first. He's never played first, so we wanted to break him in and see if that's a possibility."

The Phillies believe third base is Franco's future, although some scouts have questioned his ability to stick there. Franco turns 21 on Monday. His potential value is highest at third, a position that has lacked stability in the Phillies organization for a decade.

Both corner infield spots are awash in uncertainty for the Phillies. Cody Asche has flashed effectiveness at third in his brief major-league stint. The Phillies are impressed by his attitude. Ryan Howard and Darin Ruf could eventually platoon at first base in 2014. Howard, of course, is signed for three more seasons.

Looper expects Franco to man first base for the remainder of double-A Reading's season. He started there again Saturday night in the second game of a doubleheader. The Fightin Phils have nine games to play after Saturday.

Some scouts are skeptical that Franco can stick at third base because of his slow foot speed. Others cite his sure hands and strong arm as reasons why he can do it.

"It's surprising how good he is [at third], because he can't run," Looper said. "But there have been a lot of third basemen who could not run. Brooks Robinson was one.

"He has a great arm. His range is less than adequate. He's pretty good on slow rollers. I think he could be a major-league third baseman."

So why first base and why now? Looper said the organization's infield coordinator, Doug Mansolino, has worked with Franco for the last few weeks at first. They felt this was a low-pressure situation for a tryout.

The team had hoped to send Franco to the Arizona Fall League, but they were not granted permission by Franco's winter-ball team in the Dominican Republic. Looper said the Phillies were promised that Franco would see regular playing time in the Dominican. The Phillies, though, have less influence there than in the AFL.

Extra bases

The Phillies continue to negotiate with Cuban righthander Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, according to a source. The final agreement could be less than the original six-year, $48 million agreement. . . . Darin Ruf is the first Phillies rookie to hit eight home runs in a month since Howard smashed 10 in September 2005. . . . Arizona catcher Tuffy Gosewisch spent eight seasons with the Phillies in the minors and reveled in the chance Friday to finally play at Citizens Bank Park. "I was energized," he said. Gosewisch, 29, is 5 for 20 with the Diamondbacks.


Contact Matt Gelb at mgelb@phillynews.com. Follow @magelb on Twitter.

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