STEPPING TO the plate to lead off the bottom of the third inning with his first career at-bat, Alec Asher heard a familiar voice emanating from the speakers at Citizens Bank Park.
"Now, the pitcher, No. 49, Alec Asher," Asher's father, Bob, announced.
Asher said he didn't fully recognize that it was his father's voice until he stepped into the box and took a quick glance at the big screen, where his father's smiling face was displayed for all 22,624 fans to see.
Asher's father is the PA announcer for the Lakeland (Fla.) Flying Tigers, a high-Class A team, and has worked Detroit Tigers exhibition games at Joker Marchant Stadium.
"I looked up and I just saw his face and I'm like, 'Why is he on the big screen?' " Asher said. "But it made sense after it happened.
"I'm sure he loved it."
A 23-year-old righthander acquired from Texas in the Cole Hamels deal, Asher was the latest of four Phillies rookies to make his debut on the mound since Adam Morgan made his first start on June 21, followed by Aaron Nola and Jerad Eickhoff.
Unlike Morgan and Eickhoff, the 6-4, 230-pound Asher didn't manage a victory in his first game. Asher allowed four runs on eight hits and a walk in 5 2/3 innings in San Diego's 9-4 win over the Phillies.
The bulk of Asher's issues occurred in the top of the first inning, when he let up a two-run home run to Padres rightfielder Matt Kemp on a 1-0 pitch.
"The thing I like about it, it kind of reminded me of when Eickhoff had that outing where he gave up the three runs early and just gutted it out and gave us another five innings," interim manager Pete Mackanin said, referring to last Wednesday's 9-4 loss to the Mets. "That's a good sign for these young guys and that's what I really liked about Asher today."
Asher just allowed a third-inning solo homer by Justin Upton from the second through fifth innings. He exited with two outs in the sixth inning, after an RBI single by Padres pitcher James Shields (10-6) gave San Diego a 4-1 lead.
"You don't really expect a guy making his first appearance at the major league level to be that poised and have that kind of a mound presence," Mackanin said. "We're fortunate that we have Nola, who did it, we've got Eickhoff, who did it, and, actually, so did Asher today because he really came back after struggling in the first inning and battled through it.
"He got us into the sixth inning, and if he doesn't give up that run in the sixth, he ends up with a quality start. But you have to love that kind of grit from your starters."
Cameron Rupp has been the go-to catcher for Mackanin in all four of the rookie starters' debuts. Asher's was the only one of the four that didn't reach "quality start" status (six innings, three or fewer runs). However, Rupp was still impressed with what he saw from the team's newest rookie.
"He held his composure," Rupp said. "He worked out of jams and gave us a chance to win the ballgame, and that's all you can ask for; especially [from] someone making their debut and a young kid like that."
The 26-year-old Rupp continued his August power surge yesterday with a solo home run to right field in the second inning, his eighth of the season, to trim the Padres' lead to a single run.
After hitting one home run, in June, through the first four months of the Phillies' schedule, Rupp has hit seven in August alone, including three in his last six games.
When asked how he explains his recent long-ball spree, Rupp said: "I don't. When I get a pitch, and I'm in a hitter's count, and I get a ball out over the plate, I'm going to make a good swing and be aggressive."
Odubel Herrera and Cesar Hernandez also made some noise at the plate yesterday, after they went a combined 0-for-8 Saturday. Herrera had a career-high four hits, all singles. Hernandez went 2-for-4 with a single and an RBI triple. Hernandez had three hits in his previous 39 at-bats.
"Cesar needs to battle out of the slump he's in, and he's done that; today was a good sign," Mackanin said. "Herrera, the same thing; his average was dwindling just a bit. He got under .290 and he rebounds with four hits today.
"Those kinds of things are important for these players to show what they're capable of doing."
Double A Reading Fightin Phils first baseman Brock Stassi was named Eastern League MVP. Stassi, 26, hit .310 with 14 home runs and 88 RBI as Reading won the Eastern Division crown.
Other Fightin Phils who have won the Eastern League MVP include Darin Ruf (2012), Ryan Howard (2004), Marlon Byrd (2001), Jeff Stone (1983), Mark Davis (1980) and Greg Luzinksi (1970).
The Phillies claimed lefthanded reliever Ken Roberts off waivers from Colorado. Roberts, 27, who was optioned to Triple A Lehigh Valley, was drafted in the 25th round in 2010. The 6-1, 200-pounder was 0-1 in 9 1/3 innings with the Rockies this season, allowing 13 hits and six runs. In 23 games with Triple A Albuquerque, he was 1-3 with a 5.12 ERA.