By Sam Bush
Like all sports, major league baseball is all about numbers.
And with Domonic Brown sidelined with a concussion and Cody Asche returned to third base with Maikel Franco sidelined with a broken left wrist:
It has left more playing time for Aaron Altherr.
Altherr took advantage of his playing opportunity in Monday night’s 7-2 loss to the Braves at Citizens Bank Park. He tripled to right field in the first inning. He hit a sacrifice fly to right in the third to score the Phillies’ first run. He then got hit by a pitch in the sixth.
Altherr is hitting .259 (15-for-58) with five doubles, two triples, two home runs, 10 RBIs and an .835 OPS in 17 games.
“The more games you play, the more days you’re up here, the more you’re comfortable,” Altherr said. “I’m definitely having a good time being around all these guys. I just hope I can continue to keep playing well.”
Altherr has played solid defense, too. He made a great leaping catch at the right-field wall in the eighth inning on a ball hit by Michael Bourn. Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons had rounded second base when Altherr made the catch, and Altherr threw the ball to Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard, who stepped on the bag to complete the inning-ending double play.
“The ones hit right at you are the toughest ones, just because of depth perception,” Altherr said. “You don’t really know how far it’s going to travel. I got to the point where I had to make up my mind. I could have turned around if I made up my mind earlier, but I just tried to stick with it and run it down.”
It is impossible to say exactly how the Phillies’ outfield might look on opening day next season, but Altherr should be a favorite to make the roster. Brown’s time with the Phillies could be up, which would open up a spot. Odubel Herrera certainly will be back after a strong rookie season. Asche could get another shot in left field. Jeff Francoeur could be re-signed. If not, the Phillies probably will look for another veteran to sign to stabilize the outfield.
“You’ve got to like the way he plays defense,” Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin said about Altherr. “That was one hell of a catch. He hit the ball hard two or three times today. He gives you a good approach at the plate. And you certainly like his athleticism. He’s a nice-looking young player. We’re going to find out the rest of the month how he does at this level. I have no reason to believe he won’t succeed at this level. I’m anxious to see him play a little bit more.”