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Franco heats up in grand 2-homer game

Kapler on 3rd baseman: 'Things are trending in the right direction for him'
MLB.com @ToddZolecki

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Is it possible Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco has figured out something at the plate with Opening Day less than a week away?

Franco crushed two home runs Friday afternoon in an 8-2 victory over the Pirates in a Grapefruit League game at LECOM Park. He hit a two-run home run in the fourth inning and a grand slam in the fifth. Franco is hitting .318 (7-for-22) with four home runs in his past six games. He started the spring 3-for-30.

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CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Is it possible Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco has figured out something at the plate with Opening Day less than a week away?

Franco crushed two home runs Friday afternoon in an 8-2 victory over the Pirates in a Grapefruit League game at LECOM Park. He hit a two-run home run in the fourth inning and a grand slam in the fifth. Franco is hitting .318 (7-for-22) with four home runs in his past six games. He started the spring 3-for-30.

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Video: PHI@PIT: Franco on two homers, approach at the plate

"I do whatever I need to work on in the spring, try to have a nice at-bat, and try to work on what I have to work on and try to get better," said Franco, who has noticeably closed his stance since last season. "That's what I did today. A couple fastballs down the middle, and I put good contact on it."

Video: PHI@PIT: Franco launches a two-run homer to left

The homer in the fourth inning came on a 3-0 fastball.

"As he was going up for his next at-bat, I said, 'otro,' -- another one? -- and he said, 'No, no, line drive up the middle,'" Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said. "And then, boom, another one. So he's got the right approach and mindset. Things are trending in the right direction for him."

Video: PHI@PIT: Franco launches a grand slam in the 5th

Kingery shows off versatility
Phillies phenom Scott Kingery played some third base Friday. He also played center field and right field. It is not a stretch to think Kingery could be playing all over the field for the Phillies this season, or third base on a semi-regular basis should Franco struggle. But it also is not a stretch to see Kingery promoted earlier than expected. If the Phils can get Kingery enough playing time, perhaps he will be promoted in April. The Phillies will keep an extra season of team control over Kingery if he is promoted April 13 or later.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

"Wow, wow," Kapler said about Kingery at third. "His ability to go to his left and make that strong throw, he showed off that incredible arm and that versatility. It's what we're looking for in our young players."

Looks like a young bench
The Phillies granted utility player Adam Rosales his unconditional release on Friday. They had to pay him a $100,000 retention bonus Saturday if he was not placed on the roster or released.

If the Phils carry a four-man bench, it leaves Pedro Florimon, Jesmuel Valentin and Roman Quinn competing for the final two jobs. Andrew Knapp is expected to be the No. 2 catcher. Aaron Altherr or Nick Williams are considered the No. 4 outfielder.

The Phillies could carry a five-man bench to open the season. They do not need a fifth starter until April 11. In that case, Florimon, Valentin and Quinn would make the team.

Florimon has 791 plate appearances in seven big league seasons, which makes him the most experienced of the three. Quinn had 69 plate appearances in September 2016, but he has missed a lot of time the past few seasons because of injuries. He might be better served playing regularly in Triple-A Lehigh Valley, at least to start the season.

Valentin has no Major League experience, but he has shown his versatility defensively.

Hutchison's time to shine
Non-roster invitee Drew Hutchison could earn himself a spot on the Opening Day roster with a strong start Saturday against the Tigers in Lakeland, Fla.

Video: TB@PHI: Hutchison strikes out Duffy to end his outing

Hutchison, who has a 3.45 ERA in 15 2/3 spring innings, is in the hunt, particularly following injuries to right-handers Jerad Eickhoff and Mark Leiter Jr. Hutchison can exercise an opt-out clause in his contract Friday, but even if he does, the Phillies have 48 hours to make a decision on him.

In other words, Saturday is a big day.

Nola is ready
Phillies right-hander Aaron Nola allowed four hits and one walk in four scoreless innings against the Pirates. He struck out five.

His next start is Opening Day on Thursday in Atlanta.

Video: PHI@PIT: Nola strikes out Osuna to escape early jam

"He's starting to look to me a lot like -- I saw [Zack] Greinke in the American League when he was with Kansas City -- kind of a familiar look to the way that he uses the gas pedal and the brake effectively and fills up the strike zone with all his pitches," Kapler said. "Real calm, easy, collected demeanor is really reminiscent of some of the best pitchers in baseball."

Video: PHI@PIT: Kapler on Nola's outing, Franco's two homers

Roster transactions
The Phillies reassigned right-handers Tom Eshelman and Pedro Beato, outfielder Collin Cowgill and catcher Matt McBride. They will, however, remain in Major League camp.

Up next
Hutchison is scheduled to start Saturday's Grapefruit League game against the Tigers at 1:05 p.m. ET at Joker Marchant Stadium. Listen to the game on Gameday Audio.

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.

Philadelphia Phillies, Maikel Franco