Asche likely wins job at third after Franco's demotion

Asche likely wins job at third after Franco's demotion

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Cody Asche will be the Phillies' Opening Day third baseman.

Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg did not exactly say it Saturday afternoon following a 5-3 loss to the Pirates at McKechnie Field, but there is no other way to consider it. The Phillies announced in the morning they had reassigned third baseman Maikel Franco, right-hander Sean O'Sullivan and outfielder Clete Thomas to Minor League camp.

The Phillies said in the winter and early in camp that Asche and Franco would compete for the third-base job.

Franco is gone, Asche is left.

"Uh, yeah," Sandberg said, when asked about Asche as the Opening Day third baseman. "Well, I think it's a combination of two things. Franco goes and gets seasoning and gets at-bats and works on things, probably more on the offensive side, shortening up his swing and getting some better line-drive-type of contact. Now Cody plays in these games and gets ready for the start of the season and then we go from there."

While the Phillies touted this as a true competition, the reality is Franco would have had to completely outplay Asche to have a shot at the job. Asche impressed the Phillies in 50 games late last season, while Franco has not played above Double-A.

Franco hit .184 (7-for-38) with two RBIs, two walks and six strikeouts in 16 games. After starting the spring 0-for-13, Asche has hit .250 (7-for-28) with two doubles, three home runs and six RBIs. He had started to come around earlier this spring, but got hit in the hand with a pitch, which set him back. In Saturday's 5-3 loss to the Pirates, Asche went 2-for-4 with a solo homer.

"I had kind of a tough go at it in the first two weeks, and I started getting comfortable and then got hit in the hand," Asche said. "I had to sit for two days and you have to start over when you should be at a point of progression. I had to work through that for a little bit, and I have been pretty happy with my last five to seven games with the at-bats I have had."

Asked about being in the Opening Day lineup, Asche said, "Until my name is on the lineup card Day 1, it's anybody's job still. I can't take anything for granted, whoever is down or whoever is here."

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.