Kendrick nearing return to Phillies' lineup

Kendrick nearing return to Phillies' lineup

PHILADELPHIA -- Howie Kendrick could rejoin the Phillies early next week, which means somebody is going to lose playing time.

But who?

Kendrick began a rehab assignment Wednesday night with Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said Kendrick is scheduled to play at least four games before rejoining the team. Kendrick started in left field Wednesday, but Mackanin said he probably will play third base, and first base, too.

Kendrick opened the season in left field, hitting .333 with four doubles, one triple, five RBIs and an .883 OPS in 43 plate appearances before landing on the 10-day disabled list April 16 with a strained right abdomen. Aaron Altherr is expected to remain in the lineup once Kendrick returns. He could move to right field, which would reduce Michael Saunders' playing time. Saunders is hitting .225 with four home runs, 15 RBIs and a .652 OPS in 151 plate appearances.

Saunders dropped to eighth in the lineup this week.

But Kendrick also could see some time at third base, if Maikel Franco's struggles continue. Franco was benched for the second consecutive game Wednesday. Kendrick playing first base made more sense in April, when Tommy Joseph struggled. But Joseph has been hot this month. His 1.111 OPS in May ranks ninth in baseball, coming into Wednesday's action.

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