PHOENIX - A 1-for-5 game in which Cody Asche stranded five runners on base did not look, on the surface, like the confidence boost the 23-year-old third baseman required. But there was Asche, benched for the previous three games, engineering a key defensive play Thursday at Dodger Stadium. And he was the one who started a four-run Phillies ninth inning with a single up the middle.
These are baby steps in a transformation that will take time. Asche has not yet resembled an everyday player in the majors. His manager, Ryne Sandberg, said playing time could be distributed among Asche, Freddy Galvis, and Jayson Nix.
It was Asche's job to lose. He has not done that yet, but there are growing pains. He understands.
"You'd like to be in there every single day, but you realize part of growing up as a player and being young is learning," Asche said. "Sometimes it takes a couple of days on the bench to learn and become a better player. Hopefully, we'll look back on this three months from now and say, 'That was great for me.' "
Sandberg encouraged Asche to view his benching as a teaching moment. The manager thought Asche needed a game like Thursday's 7-3 victory.
"That could go a long way," Sandberg said.
The issue, for the Phillies, is a continued one. Their third basemen have hit 21 homers since the start of the 2012 season. Only the Angels have fewer, with 19. The .694 OPS for Phillies third basemen ranks 23d in baseball.
Asche's ninth-inning single Thursday snapped a 2-for-27 slump. His last extra-base hit, a double, was April 9. But Galvis, who is 1 for 25 (.040) this season, is a black hole at the plate. Sandberg could ride Asche with the hopes he finds his stroke.
Asche said his most important lesson is a simple one.
"It's sticking with one thing," Asche said, "and not coming in every day with a new idea for this or that. I think that's the challenge as a young guy, to not overanalyze your faults and when you fail. I've had a lot of failure. I've had a lot of success. Stick with what's working through the good times and the bad."
Outfielder Tyson Gillies, a member of the Phillies' 40-man roster, was suspended three games by the organization for damaging the bat rack and dugout wall Thursday at triple-A Lehigh Valley. Gillies, 25, struck out four times in a 9-5 IronPigs loss.
It is not the first time the Phillies have reprimanded Gillies, who was acquired in 2009 as one of three players from Seattle for Cliff Lee. He was suspended in 2012 for an emotional outburst at double-A Reading's bus driver.
"I apologize to everyone for my actions and know this can't happen," Gillies wrote on Twitter. "Frustration got the best of me and I threw my equipment against the wall."