No production at third base in Cody Asche's absence

Cesar Hernandez. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

The grounds crew wanted to cover the field at Citizens Bank Park with a tarp Tuesday, but Larry Bowa needed more time. He swatted grounders at Cesar Hernandez; a drill 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 still split third base, which is devoid of production since Asche was hurt. Phillies third basemen have batted .187 with a .268 on-base percentage and .219 slugging percentage in 71 plate appearances in Asche's absence.

"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 .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.

Sandberg said Asche, whose hamstring nagged him in April, will not be rushed.

"He'll be monitored," Sandberg said. We want him to be right with timing and ready to go. ... It's important for him to come back and be productive."

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