Sandberg maintains faith in slow-starting Asche

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Sandberg maintains faith in slow-starting Asche

LOS ANGELES -- After starting three straight games in Denver, Cody Asche did not play in the Phillies' 7-0 win over the Dodgers on Monday night.

It was really not a surprise that manager Ryne Sandberg went with Freddy Galvis over Asche at third base. The Dodgers had a lefty, Paul Maholm, on the mound and Galvis is a switch-hitter while Asche hits solely from the left side.

Asche could conceivably get another night off Tuesday as the Dodgers will start another lefty, Hyun-Jin Ryu, in the second game of the series.

Asche had a pair of hits in three games in Denver, but he’s still hitting just .196 (9 for 46) over his first 17 games. The hits in Denver are his only two in his last 23 at-bats.

General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. was frank in his assessment of Asche before Monday night’s game.

“He’s not playing as well as we'd like,” Amaro said.

But Amaro was quick to add that the Phillies must continue to show patience in the 23-year-old who has just 67 games of big-league experience.

“We have to give him chances to play,” Amaro said.

Asche isn’t the only third baseman in the Phillies' system off to a slow start. Top prospect Maikel Franco, 21, was hitting just .153 in his first 16 games at Triple A. Franco, who split last season between Single A and Double A, could eventually put pressure on Asche, but it's not happening now.

“Kids, man,” Amaro said. “It takes some time to adjust. Same with Asche. They’re kids. You have to go through some growing pains with the kiddies. Everybody wants everybody to be an all-star right away. It's not happening.”

If anyone is going to push Asche for playing time at the moment, it’s Galvis. Utility man Jayson Nix could also get some time at third against left-handed pitching.

Sandberg was asked before Monday night’s game whether Galvis was a candidate for more time at third.

He did not say no.

“It’s a day-at-a-time type of thing,” the manager said. “That’s how I look at that, basically.”

Like Amaro, Sandberg stressed patience with Asche.

“I have a lot of faith in Asche, with what he did last year, with what he can do when he’s relaxed and staying within himself,” Sandberg said. “In Colorado, I thought he had a good approach to his at-bats, a base hit up the middle, a base hit to center field. And he hit two balls to the shortstop. That was the approach he was talked to about -- using the whole field, not being so pull-happy. So I think that was progress and steps in the right direction for him.

“Cody is a line-drive hitter and he hits the ball well to left and left-center. Basically we want him to do what he’s done to get here. Be yourself. Power and all of that, sometimes that comes two, three years into it. Hit for average, do your job that way -- that goes a long way as far as breaking into the major leagues.”

Andrew Knapp to make Phillies' roster -- remaining roster decisions are close

Andrew Knapp to make Phillies' roster -- remaining roster decisions are close

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The pathway for Andrew Knapp to make the Phillies' opening day roster as the backup catcher was cleared way back in November when he was added to the 40-man roster.

The job all but became Knapp's on Monday when the team released two veteran catchers who were not on the 40-man roster. When Ryan Hanigan and Bryan Holaday were let go, Knapp became one of just two catchers in camp, the other being starter Cameron Rupp (see story).

So it's pretty obvious that the 25-year-old Knapp will open the season with the big club -- even though nothing will become official until rosters are filed with the commissioner's office this weekend.

"Obviously there are four or five days left," Knapp said. "I'm just going to keep trying to make good impressions and try to win a job. I'm keeping my head down, trying not to think about it too much."

Knapp was the Phillies' second-round draft pick of Cal-Berkeley in 2013. He has never played in the majors.

"It would be a dream come true," he said. "Everyone hopes to get called up at some point but to make a team on opening day would be pretty special and it would be the best moment in my career so far."

Phillies manager Pete Mackanin acknowledged that Knapp would probably make the club.

Mackanin would like to have the rest of his roster in order over the next day or two.

"As soon as possible," he said. "Because the last four or five games I'd like to play almost as if it were a season -- using the bullpen that way, using the bench in a certain way, seeing what it looks like, our bench guys, all our hitters. We just don't want to make a bad decision so we're just going to string it out as long as we can."

Roster questions must still be answered on the bench and in the bullpen.

How does the bench shape up? Andres Blanco, Aaron Altherr and Knapp are set. The Phils are expected to go with a five-man bench so that leaves two openings. There are four players vying for those spots: Chris Coghlan, Daniel Nava, Brock Stassi and Jesmuel Valentin. Valentin has impressed, but at 22 years old would benefit from playing every day at Triple A.

Mackanin praised Stassi's work on Monday. If Stassi makes the club, the final spot would come down to Coghlan and Nava.

"Stassi has obviously made a great impression, mainly because, not necessarily because of his results, but the fact that he had a lot of quality at-bats," Mackanin said. "It looks like he can handle making adjustments to the different pitchers and different situations. He seemed to handle left-handers well. He made a good impression, as has Coughlan. Nava has also been consistent throughout the spring."

Stassi, Coghlan and Nava are all non-roster players so the Phils would have to clear 40-man roster space to add any of them.

Two spots remain open in the bullpen. Adam Morgan, Joely Rodriguez, Luis Garcia, Alec Asher and Cesar Ramos are the candidates. All but Ramos is on the 40-man roster.

How will this all shake out?

More answers are probably coming Tuesday.

Phillies release Hanigan, Holaday; Andrew Knapp likely backup catcher

Phillies release Hanigan, Holaday; Andrew Knapp likely backup catcher

A week before the season opener, it appears Andrew Knapp has won the Phillies' backup catcher competition.

The Phils on Monday released Ryan Hanigan and Bryan Holaday, two veterans battling with Knapp for the backup spot to Cameron Rupp.

Knapp, 25, hasn't had an impressive spring, going 7 for 38 (.184) with 16 strikeouts, but the move makes sense because he's young and has at least a chance to contribute to the Phillies in the future, unlike Hanigan and Holaday. Plus, catcher Jorge Alfaro and first baseman Rhys Hoskins will likely open the season at Triple A, meaning Knapp would not have had an everyday spot with the IronPigs.

Knapp had his best game of the spring at the right time Sunday, hitting a two-run homer and throwing out two runners on the bases (see story).

"It's pretty obvious he seems to be the guy," manager Pete Mackanin said of Knapp. "Nothing's written in stone but if you read between the lines, it pretty much tells you something about it. No secret plans or anything like that. It is what it is right now."

At 25, Knapp isn't really a prospect anymore but rather a player the Phillies want to see sink or swim at the big-league level.

"He's not going to get 500 at-bats, but one of the things you can look at is any exposure to the big-league scene is valuable toward anyone's development," Mackanin said. "Let's say Knapp gets 200 at-bats, it's worth his while and our while to judge him, to give him a sense of confidence or knowing what he's up against.

"In that regard playing in the big leagues, even in a part-time role, is important."

Knapp was the Phillies' second-round pick in 2013 out of the University of California. He broke out in 2015 by hitting .360 with a 1.050 OPS and more than an RBI per game in 241 plate appearances with Double A Reading.

Last season, the switch-hitting Knapp was an International League All-Star with Triple A Lehigh Valley, though he didn't have as impressive an offensive season, batting .266/.330/.390 with eight home runs and 46 RBIs.

"He's got a chance to be a pretty good hitter," Mackanin said. "And he's come along quite a ways defensively behind the plate to where I'm comfortable with him catching.

"Little by little he's shown improvement in the spring, even though he hasn't had the greatest spring offensively. He's had a lot of good at-bats and he's caught well."

Andres Blanco, Aaron Altherr and Knapp look like locks for the Phillies' bench. The final two bench spots are open with Brock Stassi, Chris Coghlan, Daniel Nava and Jesmuel Valentin in the running (see story).

CSN Philly's Jim Salisbury contributed to this report.