Phillies Notebook: Phillies' offense remains quiet

Posted: March 06, 2014

CLEARWATER, Fla. - Marlon Byrd hit a booming, opposite-field home run off Toronto ace R.A. Dickey to break a tie in the third inning of the Phillies' eventual 5-3 loss to the Blue Jays.

Byrd went 2-for-3. The 17 other Phillies batters who stepped to the plate last night had a combined four hits.

"A lot of zeroes up there on the offensive side," manager Ryne Sandberg said. "We haven't had too much offense later in the games. It's something we have to work on. With more at-bats, guys usually start swinging the bats better."

Although hardly anyone pays attention to Grapefruit League standings, the Phillies are 1-6 after a week of exhibition play.

"I don't like losses," Sandberg said. "You'd like to win games. It seems like in some of these games it's been a one-inning thing, a crooked number in one inning. But our offense hasn't come alive to overcome a crooked number from the other team."

At least Byrd has been a bright spot. Byrd, who signed a 2-year, $16 million deal as a free agent this winter, is hitting .385 (5-for-13) in five games this spring.

"He's swinging a good bat and having consistent at-bats," Sandberg said. "He used the [wind] with the home run, but he's a good bat for us and he's showing it early."

Cody Asche was unavailable for the second straight day with a bruised right hand. But Asche, who got hit by an errant pitch from Pittsburgh's Yao-Hsun Yang on Sunday, could return to the lineup today against the Atlanta Braves.

"He's a quick healer," Sandberg said. "There's a chance [today]."

Asche was back taking ground balls less than 24 hours after getting hit. Sandberg said Asche also hit a little on Monday and took batting practice yesterday.

Asche is 0-for-9 with two strikeouts in four games this spring. Third base prospect Maikel Franco, 3-for-14 with an RBI and two walks, started in Asche's place last night.

Since hand injuries can be particularly debilitating for hitters, Sandberg said his teams were taught to turn away from pitches in on the hands when he was in spring training as a player.

"In the olden days, we used to practice that a little bit in spring training, how you turn and take it in the ribs," Sandberg said.

So, you stood in and took balls off your ribs as a spring training drill, Ryno?

"No, no, no, no," Sandberg said. "We talked about it . . . It was a theory."

Erik Kratz returned to Clearwater for the first time since being traded.

Kratz, the Phillies' primary backup for a large part of the last two seasons, was traded to Toronto in the December trade that brought reliever Brad Lincoln to Philadelphia. Despite being dealt away from his hometown team, Kratz still went on a Phillies cruise trip for fans to Mexico in January along with Domonic Brown, former Phillies pitcher Tommy Greene, former outfielder Greg Luzinski, the Phillie Phanatic, and others.

"It's something I said I was going to do, and if they still wanted me to do it, I was definitely going to do it," Kratz said. "I wanted to fulfill my obligation. And, I mean, who doesn't want to go to Cancun in January? But if you sign up for something, you do it. There were no hard feelings."

Kratz, who went to Christopher Dock High School in Lansdale, caught Toronto Opening Day starter R.A. Dickey last night. Kratz has caught both of the knuckleballer's starts this spring as he competes for the Blue Jays' backup catching job.

Kratz has used a first baseman's glove behind the plate to better handle Dickey's knuckleballs.

"The more practice I get with it, the better I've gotten," Kratz said. "From Day 1 to now, it's been a world of difference . . . But I have to keep improving."

Jimmy Rollins was scratched a little more than an hour before first pitch. Rollins was out of camp on Monday with flu-like symptoms . . . Righthander Sean O'Sullivan starts against the Atlanta Braves today. Tomorrow, the Phillies will face the Yankees' Masahiro Tanaka and Detroit's Justin Verlander with a split squad scheduled. Rookie Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez will pitch against the Tigers' star-studded lineup in Lakeland. "It's a good challenge for him," Ryne Sandberg said . . . The Phillies and Braves will honor the late Jim Fregosi prior to today's game at Bright House Field. Fregosi passed away on Feb. 14. The manager of the 1993 National League champion Phillies, Fregosi worked in the Braves' front office as an assistant to the general manager for the past 13 seasons. Former Phillie Darren Daulton will take part in the ceremony.

On Twitter: @ryanlawrence21


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