PHILADELPHIA -- Aaron Altherr on Saturday had a locker in the Phillies' clubhouse for the first time since his July 23 demotion to Triple-A, and with his return came a message from Gabe Kapler."Be ready at all times," the Phillies' manager said he told Altherr.Rhys Hoskins is not sitting. Roman
PHILADELPHIA -- Aaron Altherr on Saturday had a locker in the Phillies' clubhouse for the first time since his July 23 demotion to Triple-A, and with his return came a message from Gabe Kapler.
"Be ready at all times," the Phillies' manager said he told Altherr.
Rhys Hoskins is not sitting. Roman Quinn has earned more playing time. And Jose Bautista, Odubel Herrera and Nick Williams aren't going anywhere, so Altherr must be prepared to contribute in ways outside of the type of regular at-bats he had been given over the past six weeks with Lehigh Valley.
Flexibility and creativity will be the norm for the Phillies as they venture into September two games behind the Braves for first place in the National League East. Major League Baseball rules allow for active rosters to expand from 25 to 40 players in September, and the Phillies took advantage Saturday with a flurry of moves to bring their group to 31. That's a welcome change for Kapler, who since the season opener has not been hesitant to go deep into his bullpen and bench.
"It gives coaching staffs a little bit of a breather, to some degree," Kapler said. "It's like, you're not in the dugout worrying about running out of position players or using a pitcher to run or a position player to pitch."
Altherr, fellow outfielder Dylan Cozens and right-hander Yacksel Rios were recalled from Lehigh Valley. Relievers Austin Davis and Edubray Ramos were activated from the 10-day disabled list. Pedro Florimon was activated from the 60-day DL.
Because Florimon's move adds him to the 40-man roster, infielder Jesmuel Valentin was designated for assignment to make room. Mark Leiter, who was designated for assignment Tuesday to make room for Bautista, was claimed on outright waivers by the Blue Jays.
"One of the hazards of being a much better baseball team is that you DFA good players," Kapler said. "And you sometimes lose those good players."
Saturday's transactions notably lacked Jerad Eickhoff and J.P. Crawford. Eickhoff is healthy but made a rehab start Thursday. He won't be available again until early next week. Crawford, it appears, is better off in Lehigh Valley at the moment. He's hit .227 with three extra-base hits in 12 games since being optioned on Aug. 14.
"We're still considering a number of things around both of those guys," Kapler said.
The players here, though, provide options as the Phillies push for their first division title since 2011. Altherr, despite hitting .171 in 248 plate appearances before being optioned in July, immediately becomes one of the top fielding outfielders on the team and could be used as a defensive replacement late in games. Kapler said Altherr is someone he can use in a double switch or as a bench weapon against left-handed pitching.
"I'm getting closer," Altherr said of his progress after slashing .244/.321/.336 in 34 games at Triple-A. "It was just a matter of getting the at-bats and getting the timing back. I was able to get that down there, and I feel like I'm ready to contribute to the team."
Cozens, who is ranked as the Phillies' No. 16 prospect by MLB Pipeline, went 2-for-20 in his first extended Major League stint earlier this year but provides a combination of speed and power in a reserve role.
Davis, now one of three left-handers in the bullpen, has been a pleasant surprise this season, and Ramos has posted a 2.00 ERA in 36 innings in the Majors this year. Both give the Phillies another matchup to consider as they navigate the final month of the regular season.
More reinforcements are not far behind. Andrew Knapp will return to be a third catcher once his 10 days since last being optioned are up, and general manager Matt Klentak said this week that a second wave of callups -- which could bring pitchers like Enyel De Los Santos and Ranger Suarez back to Philadelphia -- will arrive when Lehigh Valley's playoff run ends.
"I think the more players you have around, the more tactical you get to be," Kapler said. "And I think that's kind of fun."
Joe Bloss is a reporter for MLB.com based in Philadelphia.