Altherr making case for more playing time

Altherr making case for more playing time

PHILADELPHIA -- It is not a stretch to think if Aaron Altherr had hit better last year the Phillies might have acquired only one outfielder this offseason.

But the Phillies instead acquired Howie Kendrick and Michael Saunders to play left field and right field, respectively. They entered this season as the regulars, and that has not changed. Each has started four of the team's first five games, including Saturday night's against the Nationals at Citizens Bank Park.

But Phillies manager Pete Mackanin is trying to find a way to see more of Altherr, who impressed nearly everybody in Spring Training. And if Altherr takes advantage of his opportunities, he could play even more.

"What I'm going to try to do is keep Altherr sharp, because he's made a good change in his approach," Mackanin said. "The fact that Altherr can play all three positions well in the outfield gives me an opportunity to play him quite a bit, I'd like to think. After 40, 50, 60 games -- or even less depending on how these guys are doing -- he might find himself with more playing time.

"I don't feel like I'm committed to playing those guys. As I said, if you want to play, you've got to hit."

Altherr entered Spring Training 2016 expecting to be an everyday outfielder, but then he injured his wrist and had surgery. He rejoined the Phillies in July, but hit just .197 with a .587 OPS in 227 plate appearances.

In part because of Altherr's struggles and Roman Quinn's injury history, the Phillies acquired Kendrick in a trade with the Dodgers and signed Saunders as a free agent.

But Altherr has looked much better since last year. Credit hitting coach Matt Stairs for much of that. This spring, he lowered Altherr's hands and minimized the leg kick in his stance.

Altherr hit .303 (20-for-66) with five doubles, one triple, four home runs, 11 RBIs and a .986 OPS in Spring Training and entered Saturday hitting 2-for-6 with one home run and two RBIs.

"I'm not going to jump to conclusions with 100 at-bats," Mackanin said about future playing time. "But if a guy has 100 at-bats and he's not showing that potential, then I'll start thinking about it. But then some guys get off quick, some guys get off slow. I'm going to give them every opportunity to succeed at the same time trying to keep Altherr sharp."

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.