MIAMI - Maikel Franco's slump, which was not snapped by a two-game benching last week, may force the Phillies to demote him to the minor leagues.
"I don't think anything is out of the question," manager Pete Mackanin said. "We've talked about it. That's about all I'll say. It's been discussed."
Franco was scratched from the lineup Tuesday night with what Mackanin described as a "slight fever." He has just 11 hits in his last 63 at-bats. Franco is 2 for 18 since Mackanin benched him and his season average has dipped to .209 with a .268 on-base percentage.
The Phillies will need to make two roster moves this week before activating Daniel Nava from the disabled list and adding a pitcher to start Saturday. There is a chance that Franco could be sent to triple A in those moves. Perhaps a move to the minors could benefic Franco mentally.
The most depressing measure of Franco's season is his failure to succeed when he is ahead in the count. His .393 OPS when ahead in the count is the second-worst since 1988 - the season Baseball Reference began tracking balls and strikes data - among batters with at least 65 plate appearances. He registered a .933 OPS last season when he was ahead in the count. Franco now looks lost even when he has the advantage.
Franco emerged in 2015 to hit 14 homers as a rookie. He looked then like a key piece in the Phillies future. But he regressed in 2016, registering just a .306 on-base percentage despite hitting 25 homers. Franco entered this season with buzz after working during spring training with new hitting coach Matt Stairs, who believed Franco was ready for a breakout season. His first two months have been almost identical. There was not a drastic drop in May but instead a continuation of April. His breakout never came. And now Franco is on the brink of a demotion.
Herrera will return
Odubel Herrera's benching continued Tuesday night, but Mackanin said he would play the centerfielder in the series finale Wednesday afternoon.
"He's accepted it really well," Mackanin said. "He's trying to clear his head."
Nava began a rehab assignment with double-A Reading on Tuesday night and will likely be activated before Friday's home game against San Francisco. . . . Minor-league pitcher Victor Arano was activated from the disabled list Tuesday and added to Reading's roster. He had been sidelined since spring training with an elbow injury. The 22-year-old struck out 95 batters in 792/3 innings last season. . . . Aaron Nola will face righthander Dan Straily on Wednesday afternoon.