Phillies Notes: Third basemen struggling in Asche's absence

Cesar Hernandez. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)
Cesar Hernandez. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)
Posted: June 13, 2014

The grounds crew wanted to cover the field at Citizens Bank Park with a tarp Tuesday, but Larry Bowa needed more time. The coach swatted grounders at Cesar Hernandez in a drill that lasted long enough that the grounds crew plopped on the grass to bide time.

Bowa and Hernandez were at it again Wednesday. The 68-year-old bench coach walked to the third-base cutout. He demonstrated how to best field a bunt. Then he rolled some balls Hernandez's way. The education continues.

It could be another 10 days before Cody Asche, the Phillies' regular third baseman, returns from a left-hamstring strain that has sidelined him since May 22. Asche will start a rehab assignment Friday at single-A Lakewood. He will play six or seven games there "at the minimum," manager Ryne Sandberg said.

In the meantime, Hernandez and Reid Brignac will continue to split time at third base, which is devoid of production since Asche was hurt. Entering Wednesday's game, Phillies third basemen had batted .187 with a .268 on-base percentage and a .219 slugging percentage in 71 plate appearances in Asche's absence.

Brignac connected when it counted Wednesday night, hitting a three-run homer in the ninth to beat the Padres.

"Cody was on the rise just when he got hurt, doing some things, showing some consistency with his bat," Sandberg said. "He was at the bottom of the order and doing some good things. I'd say that we've missed that. In the meantime, it's a chance for some other guys to play."

Hernandez and Brignac have combined for two extra-base hits and 22 strikeouts in 18 games. When Asche was injured, Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. floated top prospect Maikel Franco as a possible replacement.

Franco, 21, has produced even less at triple-A Lehigh Valley than the current third-base combination in the majors. He has a .162 batting average with a .184 on-base percentage and a .270 slugging percentage in 76 plate appearances since May 23.

Earlier in the week, Franco was dropped from his customary No. 3 spot in the IronPigs lineup to fifth.

Lee tosses

Cliff Lee (strained left elbow) played light catch for 30 to 45 throws Tuesday. His elbow is not 100 percent, and he will lob the ball again Thursday.

His return is still weeks away. He had not thrown since May 19.

Extra bases

Former first-round pick Jesse Biddle endured another poor outing Wednesday at double-A Reading. He was removed in the fourth after five walks in the inning - two with the bases loaded. Biddle's ERA is 4.06, and he has walked 4.5 batters per nine innings. . . . Sandberg heard from Major League Baseball regarding Saturday's plate collision in Cincinnati. Marlon Byrd was called out after crashing into Devin Mesoraco. Sandberg contended that the catcher blocked the plate. It was a judgment call made on replay in New York. "They felt the throw took him [Mesoraco] to where he ended up in front of the plate," Sandberg said. . . . San Diego will start lefthander Eric Stults in the series finale Thursday instead of righthander Andrew Cashner.

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