WASHINGTON -- Of the 12 position players on the Phillies’ roster, only third baseman Maikel Franco didn’t start at least one of the games in Wednesday’s doubleheader against the Nationals.
Franco is mired in a six-week slump in which he’s batting .152 (17-for-112) with four doubles, two homers and an impossibly low .449 on-base plus slugging percentage. He’s also buried in Gabe Kapler’s doghouse behind third-base options Scott Kingery, Sean Rodriguez, and newcomer Brad Miller, who made his first Phillies start in the nightcap.
The Phillies continue to talk to Franco about the importance of hitting the ball in the air more regularly. The hard line drives and long fly balls that Franco was hitting in April have turned into soft ground balls to the left side of the infield.
“It’s a very similar message that we’ve been trying to stress to him for the last year and a half,” Kapler said last weekend. “We want to show him that when he hits the ball in the air to the middle of the field, even if you don’t get a hit, that’s on the right track. A bullet ground ball to third base for anybody is not a hit. There’s too many [Nolan] Arenados and [Anthony] Rendons and savvy defenses to make that play.”
The Phillies have been down this road before with Franco. Last June, he was benched briefly before getting back into the lineup after J.P. Crawford broke his hand. Franco got a second chance and took advantage by swinging a hot bat in July. The Phillies looked to upgrade at third base in the offseason, but when Manny Machado signed with the Padres, they opted to stick with Franco.
More than ever, though, it seems as though Franco is running out of chances.