With renewed confidence, OF may force Phillies to adjust with Kendrick nearing return
By Jeff Arnold
Special to MLB.com |
CHICAGO -- Aaron Altherr has no guarantees on how long he will remain as the Phillies' everyday left fielder. But considering how much he has taken advantage of the opportunity he has been given, he's not making a decision easy for manager Pete Mackanin.
On Wednesday, Howie Kendrick (right abdominal strain) began hitting off a tee and throwing, signaling that he could be getting closer to returning. The next step would be for Kendrick -- who was hitting .333 prior to the injury -- to begin hitting out of a cage and taking live batting practice once the Phillies return home Friday.
But with Altherr hitting .333 and boasting a .404 on-base percentage heading into Wednesday's game against the Cubs -- during which he was shifted to right field, with Daniel Nava in left -- Altherr has made a solid case for remaining in the lineup.
"Whenever you're going to get consistent at-bats, you have a better chance to get your timing down," Altherr said. "I'm just trying to do my best to fill in for Howie and help the team win."
Altherr hit .197 in 57 games last season before changing his swing. The adjustment has made a big difference with his timing, and being lower in his stance allows Altherr to get into position to attack pitches quicker.
Mackanin said this week that the Phillies knew what they had in Altherr, especially defensively and with his speed. But after Altherr homered in Tuesday's 8-3 loss to the Cubs, improving his batting average to .349 in his 43 plate appearances since being moved into the starting lineup, Mackanin knows it will be difficult to keep him on the bench.
"We knew he had it in him. I think the shorter swing really makes a difference for him, and hopefully that continues for him," Mackanin said. "If it continues, then we're going to have to figure out how to keep him in the lineup."
Mackanin said Wednesday that one option would be to play Kendrick at a different position -- namely at first, second or third base -- which would allow Altherr to stay put.
Having begun the year as the Phillies' fourth outfielder, Altherr shows no signs of feeling the impact of wrist surgery that forced him to miss the first four months of last season.
Now healthy and with a renewed sense of confidence, Altherr is ready to keep building off his early momentum.
"I'm just glad to be back to 100 percent and playing the way I know I can," he said.
Jeff Arnold is a contributor to MLB.com based in Chicago. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.