Between them, righty-hitting Aaron Altherr and lefty-swinging Nick Williams hit 21 home runs and notched a .789 on-base plus slugging percentage in 685 at-bats last season. The Phillies would have happily taken those numbers from their rightfielders again this season.
But Altherr hasn't done his part.
And so, with the Phillies sporting the second-lowest OPS (.636) from the right-field position in the National League, Altherr was optioned to triple-A Lehigh Valley late Sunday night. For now, the Phillies will carry 13 pitchers and stick with a four-man bench, including rookies Jesmuel Valentin and Mitch Walding. In time, outfielder Roman Quinn could be summoned from the minors to add an element of speed to the bench.
The Phillies could also acquire a hitter before the trade deadline next week. Fox Sports reported their interest in Toronto Blue Jays veteran outfielder Curtis Granderson, and the Jays scouted the Phillies' farm system last week. But multiple sources said Monday that the Phils view other players, namely Minnesota Twins infielder Eduardo Escobar and Kansas City Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas, as better potential fits.
And with an opportunity for Altherr to get more regular at-bats in triple A, the Phillies are hoping he will regain the swing and the confidence that made him so productive last season. He's batting only .171 with six home runs, 80 strikeouts and a .595 OPS in 210 at-bats. Since June 20, he's 4 for 34 (.118) with 15 strikeouts and had lost playing time to the hotter-hitting Williams.
"He was in a really tough spot here," manager Gabe Kapler said. "He was coming off the bench against difficult relievers, some of the best relievers in the game, and it's not a position that he'd been in before. And it was a struggle for him. We wanted to put him in a position where he could catch his breath, see the baseball consistently, get regular reps and get him back on track so he can help us down the stretch."
Second baseman Cesar Hernandez wasn't in the lineup for a second consecutive game. Hernandez is still dealing with soreness after fouling a pitch off his right foot two weekends ago in Pittsburgh, according to Kapler, who said he will "most likely" return Tuesday night against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
In Hernandez's absence, first baseman Carlos Santana moved up to the leadoff spot. Santana had drawn 77 walks entering Monday night, second in the NL after Washington Nationals star Bryce Harper (79).
Manny Machado has stated his strong preference for playing shortstop. But less than a week after getting traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers, he will shift to third base as long as Justin Turner is out with a groin strain.
"I know he sees himself as a shortstop, as do we," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. "But in this time, it makes a lot of sense to have him play third. I can't say enough about Manny's willingness to do whatever it is that we need."
The Phillies pursued a trade for Machado last week and are expected to be among the most aggressive suitors when he becomes a free agent after the season. Asked if he would recommend coming to Philadelphia to a teammate who was considering it in free agency, Dodgers second baseman (and Phillies icon) Chase Utley said, "If you want to play in front of great fans that want to win, in a beautiful ballpark — as long as you can deal with the humidity."
>>READ MORE: Phillies expect to be active ahead of trade deadline
Although the Phillies are awaiting further testing on reliever Edubray Ramos' strained patella tendon in his left knee, Kapler said the team is hopeful the injury won't be a long-term issue. … The Phillies need a starter for Thursday night's series opener in Cincinnati. One possibility: righthander Drew Anderson, who made a spot start earlier this month.