BRADENTON, Fla. - Cody Asche has warded off the competition from the Phillies' top prospect and will be the opening-day starter at third base.
This is not a surprise, but it's now official, after 21-year-old Maikel Franco was reassigned to the Phillies minor-league camp on Saturday.
When asked if the competition is over, Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg, responded: "Uh, yeah."
Franco, who combined for 31 home runs, 103 RBIs, and a .926 on-base-plus-slugging percentage at single-A Clearwater and double-A Reading last year, needed a spectacular spring to unseat Asche.
The opposite occurred.
While the Phillies were impressed with his defense, Franco batted just .184 with no extra-base hits in 38 at-bats, making Sandberg's decision easy.
"Now Cody plays in these games and gets ready for the start of the season, and then we go from there," Sandberg said after a 5-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates at McKechnie Field.
Asche certainly wasn't celebrating the fact that he has earned the job. In fact, he still refuses to believe it.
"Until my name is on the lineup card Day 1, it is anybody's job still," said Asche, who hit his third home run of the spring on Saturday. "I can't take anything for granted."
For Asche, this has been an up-and-down spring. He was considered the front-runner for the job after appearing in 50 games last season following his call-up from triple-A Lehigh Valley on July 30.
Asche had a setback when he was hit in the right hand by Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Yao-Hsun Yang on March 2. He suffered a bruise that forced him to miss two games. At the time, he was 0 for 9 for the spring.
"I had kind of a tough go at it in the first two weeks, and I started getting comfortable, and then got hit in the hand," Asche said. "I had to sit for two days, and you have to start over when you should be at a point of progression."
Asche is still hitting just .175, but since beginning the spring 0 for 13, he has shown great improvement. He has hit home runs in two of his last three games and has RBIs in all three.
"He has been swinging the bat better the last couple of days," Sandberg said. "Who knows? Maybe it's a situation of him relaxing and getting after it."
Sandberg said Franco went to the minor-league camp to get more at-bats while working on refining a swing that has a big loop.
"He needs to shorten up his swing and get some better line-drive type of contact," Sandberg said of Franco.
Sandberg said the experience Asche gained last year was invaluable, and the third baseman agrees. Last year was only the second full season in professional baseball for Asche, who turns 24 on June 30.
"Anytime you can get to experience something and do it again, you will be better for it, so it was a big learning experience for me," Asche said.
Asche hit .235 with five home runs, 22 RBIs, and a .690 OPS with the Phils, but he wore down at the end of the season. In his final 11 games, Asche was 2 for 28 (.071) with 12 strikeouts.
So Asche didn't enter the season with a hint of complacency, and the attitude helped him win a job he won't yet concede is his.
Phillies first baseman-outfielder Darin Ruf is expected to miss 4-6 weeks with a left oblique strain, and infielder Freddy Galvis is out with a MRSA infection, drastically changing the opening-day lineup.
Here is a projected 25-man roster, using 11 pitchers (the Phils aren't expected to need a fifth starter for the first two weeks) and a sixth bench player.
John Mayberry Jr.
Tony Gwynn Jr.
Justin De Fratus
- Matt Gelb