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Franco putting blinders on future with Phils

Third baseman 'keeping faith' through transition from everyday player to part-time role
MLB.com @ToddZolecki

PHILADELPHIA -- Maikel Franco's future with the Phillies is more tenuous than ever. He is trying not to think about it.

Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said last week that he is going to rotate Franco, J.P. Crawford and Scott Kingery at third base for the foreseeable future. It is unclear how the playing time will be divided, but Crawford has started the past four games, including Sunday's series finale against the Brewers at Citizens Bank Park. Kapler said Franco did not start Saturday against a left-hander because he had been sick. Still, Franco is no longer an everyday player, unless he suddenly catches fire in a part-time role and becomes impossible to keep out of the lineup.

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PHILADELPHIA -- Maikel Franco's future with the Phillies is more tenuous than ever. He is trying not to think about it.

Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said last week that he is going to rotate Franco, J.P. Crawford and Scott Kingery at third base for the foreseeable future. It is unclear how the playing time will be divided, but Crawford has started the past four games, including Sunday's series finale against the Brewers at Citizens Bank Park. Kapler said Franco did not start Saturday against a left-hander because he had been sick. Still, Franco is no longer an everyday player, unless he suddenly catches fire in a part-time role and becomes impossible to keep out of the lineup.

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"I mean, the only thing that I know is I have faith in me," Franco said. "That's the real truth."

Franco, 25, is hitting .247 with eight home runs, 32 RBIs and a .704 OPS in 205 plate appearances, but he has hit just .182 with a .465 OPS in 82 plate appearances since May 9. Crawford provides the Phillies a defensive upgrade at third base, but he has hit just .181 with a .568 OPS in 83 plate appearances. His average exit velocity of balls in play is 85.9 mph, which ranks 294th out of 355 players (minimum 50 plate appearances).

Phillies third basemen have a .689 OPS this season, which ranks 26th in baseball. Their .703 OPS from 2006-18 is 28th in baseball. It is why the Phillies could try to find a third baseman before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, if they survive a tough June schedule and remain postseason contenders. It is why in the offseason, failing to acquire a free agent like outfielder Bryce Harper or shortstop Manny Machado, the Phillies could pursue a free-agent third baseman.

Franco could be moved, if any of those things happen. Perhaps a fresh start elsewhere would help.

"I mean, I'm not looking at it that way," he said. "I'm just looking day to day here and seeing what's going to happen. I don't want to think about that right now. I just want to think about right here because my moment is right here. That's where I have to be right now. Whatever happens, happens. I'm a grown man. I understand the situation and I totally get it. I want what's best for me, you know what I mean? But whatever situation and whatever tough moment it is right now, I'll just take it. I don't want to feel sorry for myself. I know I can do better. I know my talent."

Can Franco succeed in a part-time role? He has been an everyday player throughout his career, barring the final month of last season when Crawford played some third base.

"I mean, I've never been in that situation before," Franco said. "I can't tell you if it's going to work or not. I'm not used to it. Because all my career, even in the Minor Leagues, I played every single day. When I came here I played every single day, too. I don't know if that's going to work. But I'll just try to figure it out. I'll just to find everything that I can do to improve that situation."

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Philadelphia Phillies, Maikel Franco