Phils watching glimpse of the future in Altherr

Phils watching glimpse of the future in Altherr

PHILADELPHIA -- On paper it was just an inning-ending double play, but Aaron Altherr's howitzer throw home after hauling in a would-be sacrifice fly is yet another sign that the young outfielder, and his uniquely well-rounded game, could be a staple in Philadelphia's outfield for years to come.

The play ended the sixth inning, securing a much-needed solid start for Jerad Eickhoff, who threw six innings, allowing one run in a 5-1 loss to the D-backs Saturday at Citizens Bank Park.

"Oh it was huge," Eickhoff said of the stunning throw from Altherr. "He's a great outfielder and he has a great arm and to see that ... it was just a great play."

"I thought he needed to make the perfect throw from where he was and he made a heck of a throw," D-backs third baseman Jake Lamb said.

For Altherr, the play was another opportunity to show off the defensive side of his game that hasn't been talked about as much as his recent offensive surge, but which deserves to be mentioned in the same sentence. It was his second outfield assist in his last five games.

Altherr turns spectacular DP

In April when Howie Kendrick went down with an injury, Altherr played himself into the lineup with a scorching bat and the defense to match. His outfield assist Saturday was his third of the season. The Braves' entire outfield unit has four on the year.

Normally even-keeled once he steps foot on the mound, Eickhoff was visibly amped up after the play.

"A play like that to finish the inning is going to allow me to show some emotion there, but just a great way to cap the day," Eickhoff said.

Altherr's inclusion in the daily lineup brings even more benefits for Phillies manager Pete Mackanin than just the many tools he possesses. Altherr can play all three outfield spots, and play them well -- he says he's equally comfortable in all three -- allowing Mackanin to shuffle him around the outfield and add and subtract hitters from the lineup based on situational matchups.

"He's a solid outfielder," Mackanin said. "He plays all of those positions very well. It is nice to be able to move him around, especially in center field."

He's at least above average in each of the primary facets of the game, and on his way to cementing himself as a vaunted five-tool player. Entering play Saturday, he leads the Phillies in runs, (30), hits (52), home runs (10), on-base percentage (.349), slugging percentage (527), and OPS (.876) since he joined the everyday lineup on April 16.

"He has five tools. He's athletic, he can hit, he's got pop, he can run. He's a good player to have," Mackanin said.

"I love throwing guys out and making diving plays out there," Altherr began, before the five-tool player in him reminded him of just how good he is offensively. "I definitely take a lot of pride in the defense, baserunning and hitting."

As the saying goes, the best ability is availability. But for Altherr, the best ability, apart from his all-inclusive baseball talents, is versatility.

Ben Harris is a reporter for MLB.com based in Philadelphia. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.