The Phillies faced a righthanded pitcher on Friday night and Maikel Franco sat on the bench, seeming to offer a hint into how the team sees Franco's role going forward.
General manager Matt Klentak offered a scenario of playing Franco only against lefthanded pitching, which would place him into a platoon role at third base with J.P. Crawford, a natural shortstop who started Friday at third as Scott Kingery, a natural second baseman, started at short.
Franco found himself out of the lineup after going 5-for-30 on the team's 10-game road trip. His on-base percentage this season (.289) is the fourth worst among all third baseman. He has one homer in his last 81 plate appearances and has walked six times since May 1 over a stretch of 116 plate appearances. Franco's struggles made it an easy decision to lift him.
"I think the definition of struggle is nebulous," manager Gabe Kapler said. "We're really trying to figure out how to decide if somebody is struggling or not. But I will say that the key, the name of the game in offense is getting on base. And we haven't seen a lot of consistency getting on base. And that's something we want to see improve. When somebody is absolutely dominating, they don't come out of the lineup. Ever."
The Phillies have gotten little offensive production from third base or shortstop. Both positions entered Friday with the fourth-worst on-base percentages in baseball. They will try to improve that with a longer look at Crawford and by keeping Kingery, who is starting to hit better, in the lineup. That has come at a cost to Franco, whose time seems to be running out.
"I think we see the talent there, we know what kind of worker he is and we know what he can be. We've seen it," Klentak said. "Right now, we've got three different infielders who we like on the left side and we're trying to come up with the optimal way to get all three of them playing time. Some nights we'll prioritize offense, some nights we'll prioritize defense based on who's on the mound or who is pitching for the opposing team, and we go back into a little bit of a shuffle like we had in April."
The final hurdle to Rhys Hoskins' return from the disabled list could be the custom helmet that was en route to Citizens Bank Park on Friday afternoon. The helmet has protective flaps on both sides.
Hoskins is "pretty hopeful" that he can return Saturday, which would the first day he would be eligible to return from the disabled list after fracturing his jaw last week in Los Angeles. Manager Gabe Kapler said a return is "not out of the question."