ATLANTA — Alec Bohm’s season will likely end with him on the bench this week as Joe Girardi plans to use him as a pinch-hitter for the final stretch of the season after Bohm returned Tuesday from a demotion to triple A.
But being a substitute beats being in Buffalo.
“A little bit better weather,” said Bohm, who was in upstate New York with triple-A Lehigh Valley when he was called back to the majors. “Can ditch the long sleeves, too.”
Bohm finished second last season for the National League’s Rookie of the Year, but had the fourth-lowest slugging percentage in the majors when the Phillies demoted him in August to triple A. His sophomore season was a struggle, but he’ll find a silver lining that it is ending in the majors.
“Now I know I can always get back,” said Bohm, who had seven hits in his last 19 at-bats with Lehigh Valley after returning from a wrist injury. “I got sent down, went down there, got to work, and got myself back. I think there’s a little bit of relief there knowing that I can play here.”
The Phillies didn’t send Bohm to triple A to work on his defense, even though he struggled in the field. Instead, they wanted him to improve his offense.
He had just four extra-base hits in 78 plate appearances before being sent down. Bohm, who said he has not been told to play anywhere except third and first, could overcome his defensive shortcomings if he hit the way he did in 2020 when he had a .481 slugging percentage in 180 plate appearances.
“I just kind of went down there and stopped thinking so much and stopped trying to be so robotic in there, you know,” Bohm said. “I feel like I kind of got caught up in mechanics. Because that’s kind of the easiest thing to run to when you don’t see the numbers that you want. ‘Well, what’s wrong?’ There’s nothing really wrong. I was getting pretty robotic and just thinking a lot, and there’s a lot of stuff going on up here. I wasn’t keeping it as simple as I could have. I think I kind of went down there and simplified things and relaxed in the box and just kind of just relaxed.”
It’s unclear how Bohm fits into the team’s plans for 2022, but Girardi does not expect to start him this week against the Braves and Marlins as the Phillies try to force their way into the postseason. Since demoting Bohm, the Phillies have generated a .592 OPS from third base — fifth-worst in the majors. Yet they’ll roll with a platoon of Freddy Galvis and Ronald Torreyes the rest of the way.
“I’m not really thinking about ‘22 now. I’m thinking about this right here,” Bohm said. “I feel like I’m in a good spot. I went down there. I never really lost faith in who I was and what I am capable of. I was never really necessarily worried about anything. It was just kind of relaxing and getting back to that comfortable easy swing where I’m not trying to hard, not trying to do too much, just kind of letting the game come to me.”
Bohm has had just seven pinch-hit chances in his career, but he could find himself this week in some key late-inning situations. He has asked teammates about how to prepare during the games as a bench player and the importance of staying engaged in the game from the dugout.
“Just keep yourself locked in when you’re on the bench because it’s easy to let your mind wander and check out a little bit because you know you’re not in there,” Bohm said. “Things like that, little cage routine, and whatever it takes you to get ready to hit for that at-bat.”
Even if he’s not starting this week, Bohm could impact the team’s playoff chances. And that’s why the Phillies brought him from Buffalo to Atlanta.
“These are going to be some exciting games for sure. I’m just looking forward to helping out any way that I can,” Bohm said.
Girardi said the Phillies will remain in their rotation, meaning Kyle Gibson will start Thursday in Atlanta while Ranger Suarez starts Friday in Miami. The Phillies could flip the pitchers to have Suarez, who threw a 97-pitch shutout on Saturday, face the Braves on normal rest. ... Sam Coonrod is dealing with an infection in his right thumb and his availability remains uncertain. ... Connor Brogdon returned from the injured list, giving the Phillies another right-handed reliever. Ramon Rosso and Luke Williams were optioned to triple A to make room for Brogdon and Bohm. ... Matt Joyce was released after being designated for assignment last week. ... Aaron Nola will face Atlanta left-hander Max Fried on Wednesday. Fried’s 1.78 ERA in the second half is tied with the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Max Scherzer for the best in the majors.