Phillies Notebook: Astros' Singleton finally arrives in Philly

YONG KIM / STAFFPHOTOGRAPHER Kyle Kendrick throws pitch in second inning against Astros.
YONG KIM / STAFFPHOTOGRAPHER Kyle Kendrick throws pitch in second inning against Astros.
Posted: August 07, 2014

AT SOME POINT in the next month, the Phillies will likely summon Maikel Franco to the big leagues.

The only problem will be finding a place where Franco can regularly play, as Ryne Sandberg has recommitted to Ryan Howard, following last month's benching and Cody Asche is still gaining experience at third base. Add in the at-bats Darin Ruf could get at first base, and the corner infield is nearly as crowded as the outfield.

It was that logjam - and Howard's presence - that paved the way for former Phillies prospect Jon Singleton to step onto Citizens Bank Park's field in a different uniform last night.

Singleton started at first base and in the fifth spot of the Houston Astros' lineup. The hulking 22-year-old slugger was a large piece of the package of prospects the Phillies sent to Houston in exchange for Hunter Pence 3 years ago.

"This is actually my first time here, so I'm excited, definitely," Singleton, the Phillies' eighth-round pick in the 2009 draft said before the game.

Singleton never worked out at Citizens Bank Park before he was drafted and was too young to take part in any of the team's annual winter seminars for minor leaguers. But Singleton was considered the Phillies' top hitting prospect when he moved from Class A Clearwater to Class A Lancaster three Julys ago, as a 19-year-old.

He was hitting .284 with nine home runs and an .800 OPS in 93 games at Clearwater at the time of the trade. In the previous season, 2010, his first full professional season, an 18-year-old Singleton hit .290 with 14 home runs and had an .872 OPS in 104 games at Low-A Lakewood.

But a brief outfield experiment in 2011 never paid dividends and the Phillies' commitment to Howard made Singleton expendable. So he went to Houston, along with the Phillies' top pitching prospect at the time, Jarred Cosart (now with Miami), fellow righthander Josh Zeid and outfielder Domingo Santana.

Asked if there was any added adrenaline to facing the team that traded him away, Singleton produced a wide smile.

"There's definitely going to be a little more excitement," he said. "There are definitely people I know over from, players and coaches. So it'll be fun."

He then went out and went 1-for-5, knocking in the tying run with a single in the seventh inning of last night's 2-1 loss to the Phillies.

Singleton's big-league career is only 2 months old. He hit a home run in his first major league game on June 3, and added three more in his next 10 games. Singleton's rookie season hasn't fared that well since. He entered the series hitting .195 with 10 home runs and a .688 OPS in 53 games. But he's thankful for the opportunity to gain big-league experience, which wouldn't have come for a while had he stayed in Philadelphia.

"For the most part the season has been great, a lot of good things have happened for me, so I'm just trying to take everything in stride," Singleton said. "I'm just trying to enjoy everything, play ball and have fun."

The Astros showed their commitment to Singleton before he appeared in his first big-league game. Upon promoting Singleton, Houston signed him to a 5-year, guaranteed $10 million contract, a contract that also includes three team options that can up the deal to a total of $30 million.

If Singleton lives up to his top prospect status, it's a smart deal for the Astros. In buying out arbitration years, Houston can keep Singleton under club control until 2021, and won't have to pay him more than $2 million until 2019.

Meanwhile, the Phillies are due to pay their own first baseman, who entered the night with a .664 OPS on the season, at least $60 million for the next two seasons.

Singleton is just a part of the youth movement in Houston. The 6-5 Santana, who turned 22 yesterday, was promoted to the big-leagues for the second time this season on Monday. He went 0-for-13 in four games with the Astros last month, but hit .292 with 14 home runs and an .844 OPS in 104 games at Triple A.

"We've definitely played some exciting ballgames," Singleton said of the benefits of playing on a young-and-upcoming team. "For the most part we feed off of it. So if we play well and we continue to feed off of it, I think we can do really well."

Lee's fate

Cliff Lee left the mound at Nationals Park in pain 6 days ago, but still has not had an MRI to check the severity of his injury, Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said yesterday.

Lee left his start on Thursday night after throwing only 31 pitches. Later that night he was placed on the disabled list with a left flexor pronator strain.

Lee and the Phillies will not know if surgery is a realistic option until after he gets an MRI. Apparently there isn't any rush, since Lee is all but lost for the remaining 8 weeks of the season.

"Since it's a reoccurrence and the last one took 2 months," Sandberg said, "that's the reality."

David Buchanan will start in Lee's place tonight; the Phillies will make a corresponding roster move for Buchanan before the game.

Buchanan went 5-5 with a 4.40 ERA in 10 starts while pitching in place of Lee earlier this season.

Brown back

Domonic Brown was out of the lineup for the sixth straight game but declared himself ready to return to active duty after battling a strep throat over the weekend.

It's the second time Brown dealt with the issue in the last month. Brown said he'd likely have to have his tonsils removed after the season.

"I was getting a little worried there, 2 days when I wasn't getting any better at all," said Brown, who has been on antibiotics. "Body aches, cold shivers through the night, chills, sweating, headache. It was bad, man."


On Twitter: @ryanlawrence21

Blog: ph.ly/HighCheese

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