Another Phillies game was three hours from starting and it was another game that would begin without Maikel Franco in the lineup.

He began the season as the starting third baseman, was bumped to the bench, demoted to triple A, nearly released, and finally returned last week to be a deep reserve for what is all but likely his final days in Philadelphia.

Once seen as a potential key piece of the next contending Phillies team, Franco now watches most nights from the dugout as the Phillies try this month to contend.

Maikel Franco on the bench during the game against the Braves at Citizens Bank Park on Sept. 11, 2019.
CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer
Maikel Franco on the bench during the game against the Braves at Citizens Bank Park on Sept. 11, 2019.

It is safe to assume that Franco will be elsewhere next season. So he grabbed his bat Wednesday afternoon, walked past the lineup card that did not have his name on it, and prepared for another day as a bench player.

“I just try to be available in whatever situation that I have and do my best,” Franco said. “After the season is over and we finish everything, then I’ll be able to sit down and think about what’s going to happen to me and my career. But right now, I just try to get here and help my team.”

Franco returned last week from triple A, started two of the three games in New York against the Mets, had two hits in each game, and looked to be a hitter who was heating up in time. After the win Sunday -- in which Franco homered off a left-hander -- manager Gabe Kapler exchanged text messages with a reporter from The Good Phight, a Phillies blog, and said that an ideal scenario would be if Franco “forces me to write his name into the lineup every single day from here on out.”

Kapler started Franco on Monday against Atlanta but lifted him after two at-bats and sat him for Sean Rodriguez on Wednesday and Thursday against lefthanded starters. Did Franco force Kapler to leave him out of the lineup?

“Definitely not,” Kapler said before Wednesday’s game. “I am definitely looking for ways to set Maikel up for success. And just given what we know about Dallas Keuchel and knowing what we know about Maikel, and he's ground-ball heavy, and particularly ground-ball heavy against sinker-ball pitchers. We're also cognizant of ways we can help him succeed. And that just wasn't against Dallas Keuchel.”

Franco earned $5.2 million this season in his first-year of salary arbitration. He would likely earn a raise this winter if the Phillies offer him arbitration. And that would be a steep price to pay for a player who does not seem to be in their plans.

Alec Bohm hit 14 homers at double A and could be at third base early next season. The Phillies could also look to acquire a third baseman, as they will certainly be in the market if Washington’s Anthony Rendon reaches free agency.

The Phillies have options and it’s hard to see Franco’s being one of them when he’s not in their plans now. Instead, it seems that he’ll spend most of his final days on the bench.

“Right now, I’m not even thinking about,” said Franco, who popped out as a pinch-hitter to end Wednesday night’s game. “I have nothing in my head. I have nothing in my mind. I just to stay here. After that, we can talk. We can try to figure something out. But I’m just waiting for my moment. I’m waiting for my time. In New York, I was in the lineup and I tried to do my best.”

Extra bases

Kapler said it is a “strong possibility” that Roman Quinn can return from his groin injury and help the Phillies this season. … Edubray Ramos threw a 15-pitch live batting-practice session Wednesday afternoon and could be activated this weekend from the injured list. ... Drew Smyly will start the series finale Thursday night against Atlanta right-hander Julio Teheran.