Aaron Altherr returns to Phillies lineup after a month-long absence

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Phillies outfielder Aaron Altherr cut down on his strikeouts before his hamstring injuries and displayed an improved power stroke.

WASHINGTON — It had been 37 days since Aaron Altherr had seen live pitching, so he did not care which pitcher he drew for his first assignment. He knew it would be difficult. He just wanted to play.

So he batted sixth Sunday against Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg and struck out on three pitches in his first at-bat since Aug. 4. He went 0 for 3.

Altherr probably will not play every day for the remainder of the season. The Phillies have 19 more games. He will, in all likelihood, fall short of 400 at-bats in 2017.

“I have no idea,” Altherr said. “Just play it day by day and see. I really don’t know.”

When he has played, he has provided considerable production. Altherr, 26, entered the season as the team’s fourth outfielder. He could head into 2018 with a more secure job.

“I feel like I have proven that I belong here,” Altherr said. “I can help the team win, for sure. But I’ll just try to go out there and do what I know I can do. But I’ve always known that what I’ve done, I could do it. Hopefully they see that. I’m just glad for the season that I’ve had.”

Altherr cut down on his strikeouts before his hamstring injuries and displayed an improved power stroke. Those are two traits that make him a valuable player.

The Phillies will have reservations about Altherr because he missed weeks of action for the second straight season. But, before that, he accrued at least 450 plate appearances between the minors and majors in every season from 2011-15.

“It’s just these last couple of years, for whatever reason, I’ve had the injury bug,” Altherr said. “I know I can definitely play at least 150 games. It’s not a problem.”

IronPigs eliminated

Triple-A Lehigh Valley lost Game 4, 1-0, and was eliminated Sunday by Scranton from the International League postseason. Jacob Waguespack, an undrafted righthander who began the season in high-A Clearwater’s bullpen, struck out seven in seven innings but allowed a solo homer.

Dylan Cozens went 3 for 17 with eight strikeouts in the series. He could play some winter ball later this year.

Extra bases

The Phillies could add some pitchers from Lehigh Valley’s staff to help the bullpen through the rest of September. They can free 40-man roster spots by moving some players to the 60-day disabled list. … The team is off Monday. The Phillies will play Miami in a three-game series at Citizens Bank Park that begins Tuesday with two rookies, Nick Pivetta and the Marlins’ Dillon Peters, on the mound.

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