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Alfaro gets first big league start at first base

MLB.com @ToddZolecki

SAN FRANCISCO -- Phillies manager Pete Mackanin found an unexpected way to keep Jorge Alfaro in the lineup.

He started him at first base in Saturday night's 12-9 victory over the Giants at AT&T Park. Alfaro's future is behind the plate -- he is the No. 69 prospect in baseball, according to MLBPipeline.com -- but he had played first base 54 times in his Minor League career. He last played there in 2015 with Double-A Frisco, but he said he played there most recently this year for Colombia in the World Baseball Classic qualifiers.

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SAN FRANCISCO -- Phillies manager Pete Mackanin found an unexpected way to keep Jorge Alfaro in the lineup.

He started him at first base in Saturday night's 12-9 victory over the Giants at AT&T Park. Alfaro's future is behind the plate -- he is the No. 69 prospect in baseball, according to MLBPipeline.com -- but he had played first base 54 times in his Minor League career. He last played there in 2015 with Double-A Frisco, but he said he played there most recently this year for Colombia in the World Baseball Classic qualifiers.

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"I wasn't expecting to play first here, but I can play first," Alfaro said. "I'm not afraid of it."

Alfaro had been taking ground balls at first base the past few days during batting practice, but he said he had been taking them throughout the year with Triple-A Lehigh Valley. He made a nice play to catch a ball to his left and turned a double play in the third inning.

"Big defensive play," Mackanin said.

A few things went into Mackanin's decision: First, he said he wanted to give Tommy Joseph a day or two to clear his head. Joseph is hitless in his last 16 at-bats and is hitting .089 (5-for-56) with one double, three RBIs and a .226 OPS in 16 games since Aug. 1. Second, Mackanin wants Cameron Rupp to catch Aaron Nola and Jerad Eickhoff, at least until Andrew Knapp returns from the disabled list next month. Eickhoff started Saturday. Third, Alfaro, who went 1-for-5 Saturday, is hitting .360 (9-for-25) with one home run, two RBIs and eight strikeouts in six games.

"Alfaro is swinging the bat as well as anybody we have right now," Mackanin said. "He's played over 50 games at first base in his career, so I'm going to give it a shot to keep his bat in the lineup. He's swinging the bat well. I'm not going to jump to any conclusions, but right now he looks pretty good at the plate. I'm going to play the hot hand."

"I'm just trying to get my pitch and make good contact," Alfaro said. "That's all."

Eflin, Lively updates: It is unclear if right-hander Zach Eflin will make his next start. He left Friday's 10-2 loss after the fifth inning because of discomfort in his right shoulder. Mackanin said head athletic trainer Scott Sheridan examined him Saturday and "didn't think there was a whole lot there, but I don't know for sure." Eflin said he felt better. "It's encouraging," he said. ... Right-hander Ben Lively joined the team Saturday. He will be activated and start Sunday's series finale.

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, Jorge Alfaro