WASHINGTON — For the first time in this Phillies season, the fundamental baseball act of arranging a lineup is an event. Every afternoon, when it is revealed, there is some intrigue. The roster’s youngest players are prioritized in September, but that does not diminish the juggling act that Pete Mackanin confronts on a daily basis.
The Phillies manager had a chat with each one of his infielders when the Phillies summoned J.P. Crawford from the minors. He told Maikel Franco he was still the third baseman. He told Freddy Galvis he was still the shortstop. And Cesar Hernandez, he was still the second baseman.
But those titles came with a caveat.
“All of them know the plan,” Mackanin said Thursday before a 4-3 loss to the Nationals. “They’ve been told.”
For the last three days, Crawford has been the third baseman. He collected one hit in 11 at-bats. He could be the second baseman for a few days, beginning Friday. He could be the shortstop Sunday. Then, he could return to third base.
It is a showcase for Crawford, but it doubles as a method to test the incumbent infielders. Franco is upset that he was benched for the rookie. He will have his chance to prove his value; the Phillies have not discarded him. He struck out as a pinch-hitter Thursday against old Phillies friend Ryan Madson with the tying run on first base.
Galvis, who made a spectacular slide-and-throw-from-his-knees play in Thursday’s game, wants to be an everyday shortstop for someone — if not the Phillies. When Crawford plays shortstop in September, Galvis could sit for the first time this season.
Could Galvis man another position on the infield this season?
“I wouldn’t do that,” Mackanin said. “To me, Freddy is a shortstop. I don’t think that would be the right thing to do.”
Hernandez, who leads the team’s qualified hitters in on-base percentage, has reached base in 18 straight games. He committed a mental mistake in the field Thursday, but it did not cost them a run. All three of the tenured infielders are possible trade candidates this winter, although it would be surprising to see the Phillies deal Franco when his value is at its lowest.
The rest of the lineup could fall into place sometime this weekend if Aaron Altherr can return from his nagging hamstring injury. The outfielder tested it with an afternoon sprint around the bases.
“Good to go,” Altherr said. “It felt good.”
He will not return as an everyday player, at least not in the immediate future. His presence would push Tommy Joseph to the bench, with Rhys Hoskins shifting to first base. The Phillies have waited to install Hoskins as the full-time first baseman because, by putting him in leftfield, it kept Joseph in the lineup over alternatives like Hyun Soo Kim or Cameron Perkins.
Joseph, in recent weeks, has struggled to reach base. He swatted a solo homer Thursday.
Odubel Herrera, entrenched in center, extended his hitting streak to 20 games. That is the longest streak in the majors this season.
Mackanin is committed to playing rookie catcher Jorge Alfaro more in the season’s final three weeks. On Thursday, Alfaro paired with Aaron Nola for the first time.
“Pretty good,” Nola said. “We were on the same page, pretty much the whole time. He caught well back there.”
Alfaro crushed a solo homer to deep center. He has started 16 of the team’s 32 games since his recall and reached base in all 16 of them. He still has defensive deficiencies. Two balls skipped past him in the fateful sixth inning — one was a wild pitch, the other a passed ball. The Phillies have seen improvement in Alfaro’s game. He’ll be one of their catchers in 2018. There is progress to make.
The same goes for Nola, who threw 106 pitches in 5 1/3 innings. He struck out eight. But he pitched into trouble all night.
Published at Fri, 08 Sep 2017 03:27:29 +0000