CLEARWATER, Fla. — The thud sounded as if ball hit helmet, but Cody Asche gripped his right hand. An errant pitch from Pittsburgh lefthander Yao-Hsun Yang struck the Phillies' third baseman. He departed Sunday's game in visible pain.
For now, it appears the Phillies dodged serious trouble. The team diagnosed Asche with a bruised hand after a preliminary ultrasound examination showed no broken bones. More tests are likely.
The 23-year-old Asche will start at third base on opening day barring injury or a disastrous spring performance. His challenger is Maikel Franco, the organization's top prospect. The Phillies would rather Franco gain more experience in the minor leagues.
Yang, a 31-year-old import from Taiwan, pitched in the Japanese minor leagues last season. He hit two Phillies and walked another in the fifth inning.