As Aaron Altherr's audition begins, Pete Mackanin says Cody Asche 'needs to step it up'

As Aaron Altherr's audition begins, Pete Mackanin says Cody Asche 'needs to step it up'

ATLANTA — Nearly four months late, Aaron Altherr is finally getting his shot to show the Phillies he deserves to be part of their future outfield plans.

Altherr, 25, was activated from the disabled list before Thursday night’s game against the Braves and was in the lineup, batting fifth (see story). Altherr will see a lot of playing time over the final two-plus months of the season. He’s essentially auditioning.

“We want to see him play as much as possible,” manager Pete Mackanin said before the game. “So if he stays healthy, I’m going to keep running him out there. That’s what this year is all about. We’re finding out about the guys that are here. He is a potentially important part so we want to see what he does. I’m anxious to see what he does.”

Altherr, a ninth-round draft pick in 2009, played in 39 games for the Phillies last season. He hit just .241, but 20 of his 33 hits were for extra bases and he had a .827 OPS. He was slated to be the team’s everyday rightfielder before suffering a wrist injury that required surgery early in spring training.

Altherr is healthy now and eager for his chance.

“I’m good to go mentally and physically,” he said Thursday afternoon. “I’m definitely excited to be back up.”

Altherr took Peter Bourjos' spot on the roster. Bourjos was placed on the disabled list with a sprained right shoulder two days after running into the outfield wall in Miami.

With Mackanin committed to giving Altherr playing time, it will be interesting to see how the skipper divides up playing time with the remaining outfielders, especially when Bourjos recovers. Bourjos was a trade candidate before his injury. He could still be moved in a waiver deal once he’s healthy in August. Tyler Goeddel, Cody Asche and Jimmy Paredes also play corner outfield spots and much heralded prospect Nick Williams is expected to be here at some point (see Future Phillies Report).

Asche is walking a tightrope. He entered Thursday night’s game mired in a 4-for-51 skid and Mackanin seems to be losing patience.

“As I said earlier in the season, this is a very big year for Cody to prove that he can be part of the future and he needs to step it up,” Mackanin said.

With Howie Kendrick likely headed to DL, will Phillies bring up a prospect?

With Howie Kendrick likely headed to DL, will Phillies bring up a prospect?

SEATTLE — Howie Kendrick appears to be headed to the disabled list again — and at a very inopportune time.

Kendrick was in the Phillies' initial starting lineup on Wednesday — as the designated hitter — but he was removed after telling manager Pete Mackanin that his left hamstring was still bothering him.

"He said he didn't want to push it," Mackanin said. "He said, 'I'm a no-go.'"

Kendrick has been bothered by a sore left hamstring since late last week, but he's been able to hit and run the bases. He hasn't been able to play defense because the quick starts and stops put pressure on his hamstring. With the Phillies returning to National League play on Friday night in New York — no DH — Kendrick is likely to end up on the disabled list for the second time this season.

"We have to consider the DL," Mackanin said. "I can't keep having a player I can't play on defense."

Kendrick opened the season as the Phillies' leftfielder. Two weeks into the season, he suffered an abdominal strain and spent six weeks on the DL. He has most recently been playing second base in place of injured Cesar Hernandez.

Going on the disabled list would keep Kendrick out until at least the All-Star break and it could impact his trade value. Teams that are looking for a versatile player with a good bat certainly have a book on Kendrick, a 10-year veteran, but they may be wary of his health. He turns 34 on July 12.

It will be interesting to see how the Phillies fill Kendrick's spot on the 25-man roster, if he indeed goes on the DL. Bringing up utility man such as Pedro Florimon could make some sense, but he's not on the 40-man roster and that is tight, especially with reliever Elniery Garcia due to come off the restricted list (for a PED violation) next week. The Phils could go with an extra arm in the bullpen and bring back Edubray Ramos, replacing the injured Kendrick, but, frankly, he looked like a guy who'd benefit from the opportunity to build some confidence at Triple A. Outfielders Nick Williams and Dylan Cozens could be in play if the front office decided to bring one of them up and give him regular playing time.

Stay tuned.

Blue Jays sign ex-Phillie Michael Saunders to minor-league contract

Blue Jays sign ex-Phillie Michael Saunders to minor-league contract

Michael Saunders is headed back to the Toronto.

Well, Buffalo, if we're being technical.

Saunders on Wednesday signed a minor-league deal with the Blue Jays and will report to Triple A. 

The 30-year-old outfielder was officially released by the Phillies on Monday (along with reliever Jeanmar Gomez) after being designated for assignment last week. 

In 214 plate appearances with the Phils, Saunders hit just .205 with a .617 OPS and his .257 on-base percentage was the lowest among all qualified National Leaguers.

For that, the Phillies paid him $9 million — $8 million in 2017 salary and $1 million in the form of a 2018 buyout.

Saunders spent the 2015 and '16 seasons with the Blue Jays and made the AL All-Star team last season. He hit .314 with 15 homers and a .999 OPS in 61 games through June 17 and positioned himself for a big contract in the offseason. But he hit just .202 the rest of the season and lingered in free agency until the Phillies swooped in and signed him, thinking they were buying low with a chance to flip him at the trade deadline.

Instead, the Phillies ended up paying Saunders $147,540 per game.