Maikel Franco looked across the Phillies clubhouse Wednesday morning and was reminded of himself when he saw J.P. Crawford's fractured left hand in a protective wrap.
It was just three seasons ago that Franco looked like a potential lineup cornerstone before a fastball fractured his wrist and cost him seven weeks of his rookie season.
"I'm so sad for him," Franco said.
Crawford's injury is a tough blow for the Phillies, as the rookie was finally starting to look comfortable at the plate. But it presents another chance for Franco, who has been thrust back into the lineup just two weeks after he played himself to the bench. The Phillies seemed to give up on Franco earlier this month when Crawford returned from the disabled list. Now, they have to ride with him again.
Franco started just three of the previous 12 games before Crawford fractured his hand Tuesday night. Manager Gabe Kapler said last week that his optimal defensive alignment featured Crawford, a shortstop, playing third base and Scott Kingery, a second baseman, playing short. Now, Franco has been forced back into the fold and will get most of the reps at third base while Crawford is out.
"I have to keep positive, keep fighting, and moving forward," Franco said. "That's what you want when you're going for something that you want. I understand the situation, and I don't want to just sit down and not do anything."
Franco went 0 for 4 on Wednesday in his first start since Crawford moved to the disabled list. He is batting just .179 with two homers and a .235 on-base percentage over 102 plate appearances since May 10. He has struggled to reach base — Franco has the fourth-lowest on-base percentage among all third basemen — and it was those struggles that sent him to the bench.
"On-base percentage is a real thing," Kapler said. "Batting average is great, but every time you get on base and you're not making an out, you're successful. We don't measure baseball games with time. We measure them with outs, so the fewer outs we can make, the better. If Maikel can get on base more frequently, then he's going to be a better baseball player."
General manager Matt Klentak said earlier this month that the Phillies still believe Franco is "enormously talented" and "a good player who's still developing." But the shift in playing time seemed to say more about how they valued Franco. They clearly preferred Crawford, for both his defense and ability to reach base at the bottom of the lineup.
The next six weeks could be enough for Franco to prove that he should be part of the team's plans. It also could be enough time to prove that the Phillies were right two weeks ago when they moved Crawford away from his natural position and slid Franco to the bench. Franco's season then looked lost, but it took just two weeks for him to receive an unlikely chance to redeem himself.
"I know I have to make an adjustment," Franco said.