TAMPA, Fla. -
If there are any hitters who shouldn't have trouble fine-tuning their swings in the spring, it's the players playing regularly in the winter.
But only two players, Freddy Galvis and Odubel Herrera, collected more at-bats than Maikel Franco in their respective winter ball leagues. Franco hit .272 (40-for-147) with an .805 OPS in 38 games in the Dominican Winter League, hitting two of his seven home runs in the eight-game playoff series to end the season in January.
After his first month in Phillies camp, however, Franco has had trouble keeping his bat in gear. He is hitting .200 (6-for-30) with four strikeouts, no walks and no extra-base hits in 12 games.
Manager Ryne Sandberg said the 22-year-old corner infielder has been "overswinging."
"It's more about just cutting down the swing and looking for solid contact, making that a mindset goal rather than some power and home runs," Sandberg said. "Now in winter ball, he did swing for power and had home runs. I just wonder if he's looking for too much, too soon in the early season in camp, where it's more about fine-tuning your swing and having a good approach and having good, solid contact. That's more of the approach that's being talked to him about."
Franco entered camp as a long shot to displace Cody Asche as the Phillies' regular third baseman. His play this spring has made it easier on the team's decision makers.
Franco had a similar showing in his first big-league camp a year ago: He hit .184 (7-for-38) without an extra-base hit in 16 games.
"I was anxious to see him coming off a hot winter ball," Sandberg said. "He's struggled most of the games here in early spring. He needs to make some adjustments and really be ready for the season with a different approach to really get off to a good start."
Franco will start as the designated hitter, batting sixth in the Phillies lineup today against Vance Worley and the Pittsburgh Pirates in Bradenton.
Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez will make his third start of the spring this afternoon.
With the likelihood that Cliff Lee is out for the season and at least some uncertainly with Aaron Harang, Gonzalez is among the starting pitchers in camp who have moved up the depth chart. He is competing with the likes of Kevin Slowey and Paul Clemens for the fifth spot, behind Cole Hamels, Harang, Jerome Williams and David Buchanan.
Gonzalez has failed to impress this spring, though. Gonzalez is 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA (seven runs in seven innings) in three games; he has allowed three home runs.
"A little bit more consistency and a good solid outing would go a long way," said Sandberg, who has been impressed with the Cuban's fastball.
Gonzalez, 28, is in the second year of a 3-year, $12 million deal.
Andrew Bailey was all smiles in the home clubhouse at George M. Steinbrenner Field. The 30-year-old South Jersey native was less than 24 hours removed from his first outing of the spring.
Bailey, a former two-time All-Star and American League Rookie of the Year, hasn't pitched in a major league game since July 12, 2013, with the eventual world champion Boston Red Sox. He pitched an inning for the Yankees against the Braves on Wednesday night, 20 months removed from right shoulder surgery.
"I've been through a lot since then, but things are good," said Bailey, a native of Haddon Heights and graduate of Paul VI High. "I'm in a good spot and I feel healthy - as healthy as I've ever been."
Bailey, who racked up 75 saves in his first three major league seasons with Oakland, is back with the New York Yankees on a minor league contract for the second straight spring, competing for a spot in the bullpen.
Chase Utley started as the designated hitter last night in Tampa and isn't scheduled to play today in Bradenton. Utley, who entered camp recovering from a sprained right ankle, has yet to play a game at second base in the first 3 weeks of Grapefruit League action . . . Jeff Francoeur continued to be sidelined with an oblique injury, which has held him out of action since Saturday. Ryne Sandberg said he could return to the lineup this weekend. Francoeur is batting .278 with two doubles in six games this spring . . . Chad Billingsley is scheduled to pitch in a minor league game on Saturday at the Carpenter Complex in Clearwater. It's the first game action this spring for Billingsley, who has pitched just two major league games in the last two seasons due to two elbow surgeries.