Asche out to prove he deserves spot in lineup

Outfielder working as first baseman to become more versatile for Phillies

Asche out to prove he deserves spot in lineup

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The morning after the Phillies traded Chase Utley to the Dodgers in August, Utley spent his final minutes inside the clubhouse at Citizens Bank Park signing bats for a bunch of people in the organization.

Cody Asche received one of them.

"That's one of my most prized possessions for sure," Asche said Saturday at Bright House Field.

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Utley had an affinity for Asche. The Phillies put Asche's locker next to Utley's because they thought they shared a similar mindset, and they wanted Asche to learn as much as possible from the hard-working, no-nonsense second baseman. The similarities between Utley and Asche are why many in the organization hope Asche can get on track this season and prove he deserves a job with them.

It might be his final shot with the Phillies.

Asche is the first to say he did not play well last season. The Phillies expected him to improve from his first full season in 2014, when he hit .252 with 25 doubles, 10 home runs, 46 RBIs and a .699 OPS in 434 plate appearances. Instead, he hit .245 with 22 doubles, three triples, 12 home runs, 39 RBIs and a .689 OPS in 456 plate appearances. He lost his job at third base to Maikel Franco, and he could be pushed out of regular playing time in left field as Phillies manager Pete Mackanin looks at Odubel Herrera, Peter Bourjos, Aaron Altherr and possibly even Rule 5 Draft pick Tyler Goeddel in the outfield.

It is why the Phillies have asked Asche to pick up a first baseman's mitt this spring. He worked out there for the first time Saturday, borrowing a mitt from utility infielder Andres Blanco.

"It's going to help him a lot," Mackanin said. "We need Cody to try to get as many at-bats as possible. So I told him to get himself a first baseman's mitt for a double-switch possibility or an occasional start over there. The more positions he can play … he could be an outstanding double-switch guy. He could get some starts. It's a way for me to get him more at-bats."

Asche's two-run shot

It would be easy for Asche to sulk and come up with a million reasons why he did not play well last season, or think how the Phillies are not giving him a fair shake this spring. He said he battled those thoughts last year, but he took the offseason to clear his mind and take responsibility for what happened.

"You're the one playing," he said. "Create your own destiny. I've always been a guy who has the most confidence in himself. You won't be able to talk me out of the belief that I'm better than most players. That's just what I am and how I got here. And I'll never lose that belief. That helps me when I do my work and come here to compete."

If he sounds motivated, he is.

"You have to look at yourself first before you look at anything else," he said. "If you do that, you can create a clear mind for yourself. That's the biggest thing I was able to achieve this offseason, a clear mind. If I want it, I have to go get it 100 percent. You have to show it. I'm not going to sit here and complain about anything. I'm not going to complain about having to work three different positions or complain about not having a set position or set position in the lineup."

Because it's simple, really. If he plays like he thinks he can play, Asche will be in the Phillies' lineup.

"It's pretty clear cut," Asche said. "I haven't done too much to solidify any sort of role right now on this team. So really it's up to me to show him what I am, what I've tried to make adjustments on and how I can get better."

And if it works out, maybe Asche will be the starting left fielder when he sees his old buddy Utley at Dodger Stadium in August.

So what did Utley write on that bat anyway?

"Just normal Chase stuff," Asche said with a smile. "We'll keep that between me and him."

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his Phillies blog The Zo Zone, follow him on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.