MIAMI -- Aaron Altherr is heating up at the plate, which is making the Phillies' outfield rotation less of a rotation.Altherr is hitting .324 (11-for-34) with three doubles, one triple, one home run, eight RBIs and a .937 OPS in his past 10 games. He has started nine of the
MIAMI -- Aaron Altherr is heating up at the plate, which is making the Phillies' outfield rotation less of a rotation.
Altherr is hitting .324 (11-for-34) with three doubles, one triple, one home run, eight RBIs and a .937 OPS in his past 10 games. He has started nine of the past 11, putting outfielder Nick Williams firmly on the bench.
Williams has started just once since April 22. He had been hitless in 20 at-bats, dating to April 16, before his pinch-hit single in Tuesday's 2-1 loss to the Marlins in 10 innings at Marlins Park.
Is there a point when it might be best to send Williams down to Triple-A so he can play regularly?
"I don't think there's a point at which that decision has to be made," Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said before Tuesday night's game against the Marlins at Marlins Park. "I'll say that the most important thing is that he continues to work a strong process every day, that he continues to focus on his professionalism and that when he gets his opportunities, he's ready for them."
Triple-A outfielder Roman Quinn started his first game in right field on Monday. He had started every previous game in center. Do not read too much into that, only because the Phillies make a point to play players at multiple positions.
But one source said the idea that the Phillies could swap Quinn for Williams is a consideration. The Phillies are not there yet. The Phillies likely want the situation to settle itself naturally. If Altherr struggles again or if Williams heats up, the Phillies could put Williams back in the lineup more frequently.
Quinn is an interesting option because he can play everywhere in the outfield and has incredible speed. He also can play shortstop in a pinch. If he joins the Phillies, there also will not be the expectation that he plays every day, or even on a semi-regular basis.
Give 'em the heater
The Phillies have four of the best batters in the Majors against fastballs (out of 217 players with 35 or more at-bats ending on fastballs), according to Statcast™: Odubel Herrera (second at .462), Maikel Franco and Cesar Hernandez (tied for fourth at .400) and Rhys Hoskins (14th at .370).
Conversely, J.P. Crawford (184th at .200) and Carlos Santana (208th at .158) have struggled.
But even then, the Phillies are the best fastball-hitting team in the National League (.290) and the second-best in the Majors (Rays, .300). Of course, one reason the Phillies are inconsistent offensively is because they struggle against offspeed pitches. They ranked 12th in the NL, hitting .188 against them.
"I think when you're cognizant of offspeed pitches and you're allowing offspeed pitches to travel, you actually become better on the fastball," Kapler said. "It might be that we need to become just a little bit more cognizant of the opposition's offspeed."
It's the spine, silly
The Phillies are crediting an improved "spine angle" in Franco's swing for his recent hot streak. Franco is hitting .324 with two home runs, seven RBIs and an .864 OPS in his past 11 games. In short, Franco's front shoulder is tilted more skyward when he swings, helping him make better contact.
Franco's average exit velocity this season is 92.3 mph. It was 88.9 mph last season.
Kapler said right-hander Jerad Eickhoff, who is on the disabled list with a strained right lat, threw a successful live batting practice on Tuesday. Kapler declined to address Eickhoff's next step in his recovery.
Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and listen to his podcast.