For two months, Cody Asche toiled in Florida while the Phillies strained to field a competent outfield alignment. Asche's recovery from an injured rib-cage muscle slogged, but when the 25-year-old outfielder returned Thursday to the majors, he stepped into opportunity.
Asche has had two chances to win two different everyday jobs in the majors. The fact that a third exists speaks more to the current state of the Phillies' lineup. Nonetheless, it is a chance.
"Yeah," Asche said, "that's all you can really ask for as a player. Opportunity. They are few and far between in this game, so you have to take advantage when you're given them."
The former fourth-round pick is a career .246 hitter with a .693 OPS, numbers that will not make him a big-league regular but represent an upgrade to the team's current production. Phillies leftielders ranked 27th in the majors in both batting average (.208) and OPS (.603) entering Thursday's games.
Until now, the Phillies have prioritized defense from their corner outfielders. That, manager Pete Mackanin said, must change.
"It's a little different," he said. "We need some more offense."
The production in right field has been worse than left; the Phillies' rightfielders rank last in most major offensive categories. The additions of Asche and Jimmy Paredes, plus the emergence of Tyler Goeddel, could mean less playing time for Peter Bourjos.
David Lough, who had started 17 games in the outfield, was designated for assignment to clear space for Asche.
Third base coach and outfield coordinator Juan Samuel told Goeddel that, beginning Thursday, the rookie would start to practice more in right field. Asche will play only left field, which means Goeddel's best chance for future at bats could be right. Then again, Asche is not guaranteed much.
"It's pretty cut and dried," Asche said. "You've got to earn everything that I want. There is no silver platter here with my name on it. I just go earn it, and that's what I am here to do."
"Nothing is set in stone," Mackanin said. "I'm hoping he can add some offense to what we have."