CLEARWATER, Fla. - Cody Asche, who has missed four straight games with tightness in his back, returned to the field yesterday. But not in the Grapefruit League game the Phillies played against the Tigers at Bright House Field.
Asche was slotted in as a designated hitter in an intrasquad minor league game at the Carpenter Complex. He went 2-for-4, legging out an infield single in his first at-bat and later hitting a double, both off David Buchanan.
Before taking the field, Asche said he was "progressing" and was optimistic he'd be good to go a week from today, when the Phillies open the regular season at Citizens Bank Park.
"Yeah, I have a lot of trust in our training staff and in our doctors that they're going to get me right," Asche said. "We just have to make sure it's something you take care of right now so you're not dealing with it in the first 5 months of the season, robbing yourself of what you can do."
Asche took regular batting practice Saturday and yesterday. He also fielded ground balls before yesterday's game at Bright House Field.
Asche's back ailment came at a bad time - he had homered in three of his last six games before his current, 4-day hiatus. He first felt the pain while stretching prior to last Thursday's game against the Blue Jays and was scratched from the starting lineup before the first pitch.
"I had some tightness, that didn't feel right," Asche said. "I don't know, you play through a lot of [stuff] as a baseball player, and you kind of know what feels normal or not. So we just decided to be on the cautionary side, knowing we had some time left to take care of things."
Does he still feel any pain?
"It's just normal, not something that just goes away with 1 or 2 days," he said. "You have to do strengthening exercises, you have to keep going at it."
Domonic Brown, meanwhile, missed his 10th straight game with left Achilles' tendinitis. Brown took pregame batting practice with the rest of his teammates yesterday morning, but is almost certainly going to begin the season on the disabled list.
Manager Ryne Sandberg was unsure when Brown would get into a minor league game this week.
"He seems to be getting a little closer to that and that would be the next scenario is at-bats in a minor league game," Sandberg said. "I'm not sure when that's going to happen."
Rule 5 pick Odubel Herrera is the Phillies new everyday center- fielder, according to Sandberg.
Following yesterday's game, the seventh in a row in which Herrera and Ben Revere started together, with Herrera in center and Revere in left, Sandberg sounds as certain as ever that that would be the alignment for the regular season.
"Barring anything that could come up," Sandberg said. "The fact that in the past [Revere] has had experience in both corners and we know centerfield. As I look at it right now, he's leftfield."
Revere made a spectacular catch in yesterday's game, leaping up against the leftfield wall and reaching back over the fence to rob Detroit's Rajai Davis of a home run in the third inning. After making the catch, Revere leaped up again in celebration.
Herrera, meanwhile, enters the 2015 season having played outfield just 13 of his 559 minor league games in the last six seasons. During that span, Herrera, who has never played above Double A, has played just twice in centerfield.
Chase Utley missed the first 10 games of the spring schedule recovering from a right ankle sprain he suffered in January. But Utley has caught up fairly quickly in preparation for the regular season.
Utley went 2-for-2 with two home runs, a walk and three RBI off Detroit starter Anibal Sanchez yesterday. Utley is hitting .423 (11-for-26) in 10 games this spring.
"Chase swung the bat very well," Sandberg said. "He went down [Saturday] and took advantage of some at-bats on the minor league side and actually hit a home run down there and carried that over to today . . . It hasn't taken him too long, but he looks like he's pretty sharp."
Utley played six innings at second base yesterday.
The Phillies have to cut their roster by 11 more players in the next week, following yesterday morning's trimming to the spring roster.
Righthanded pitchers Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez and Hector Neris were optioned to Triple A Lehigh Valley while catcher Koyie Hill, infielders Chris McGuiness and Chris Nelson and righthander Paul Clemens were reassigned to minor league camp.
The Phillies currently have 36 players in camp. Opening Day rosters must be finalized on Easter Sunday.