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Phillies Notes: Asche improves, Franco impresses
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CLEARWATER, Fla. -- A few notes before the Phillies play the Blue Jays on Tuesday night (6:35 p.m., TCN):
• Cody Asche dodged a bullet when he was hit on the right hand by a pitch in Sunday’s game. Asche left the ballpark that day bruised and swollen, but he has made a quick recovery and was able to take batting practice Tuesday. It’s possible that the 23-year-old third baseman could play in Wednesday’s game against Atlanta.
• Asche is the lead candidate to be the opening day third baseman, but he has and will continue to be pushed by top prospect Maikel Franco.
Franco, who got his second straight start at third Tuesday night, has impressed manager Ryne Sandberg with how hard he hits the baseball. But Sandberg also likes the defense that Franco has played at third base.
“He’s looked real good at third base,” Sandberg said. “He’s got a soft glove. He reacts to balls well. The tougher the play, the softer he gets, which for a 21-year-old guy is pretty amazing. And his arm is very good. He made a play the other day behind the bag on the chalk and got it over to first base effortlessly and still had plenty of arm left.”
Franco is expected top open the season at Double A or Triple A, but he looks like a guy who could make a quick ascension to the majors.
• Cole Hamels continues to look good in workouts. He is expected to face hitters on Thursday and could be pitching in Grapefruit League games next week. Hamels was slowed by an offseason bout of shoulder tendinitis. He won’t be ready for opening day, but could be a go the second week of April.
• Pitcher Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez will get a test when he pitches against the Detroit Tigers and their rugged lineup Thursday in Lakeland.
The Phillies could have used Gonzalez in a televised split-squad game against the Yankees back in Clearwater, but Sandberg said Detroit “will be a good challenge” for Gonzalez, who walked four in 1 2/3 innings in his debut Saturday against the Yankees.
David Buchanan is also scheduled to pitch in Lakeland on Thursday. Sandberg said he was not sure who would start, but it would be either Buchanan or Gonzalez. For the record, Buchanan is listed on the Phillies' schedule as the starter.
Sandberg wasn’t sure whether he would stay back in Clearwater or head over to Lakeland to see Gonzalez and Buchanan.
“Either way, we’ll have eyes on him,” Sandberg said.
Kyle Kendrick will start the home game against the Yankees on Thursday. Japanese import Masahiro Tanaka will make the trip to Clearwater and start for the Yankees.
The Phillies will face Justin Verlander in Lakeland.
• Jimmy Rollins was a late scratch from the starting lineup Tuesday night. He has been ill. Rollins was able to work out before the game and could return to the starting lineup on Wednesday.