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Asche optioned to Triple-A Lehigh Valley

Third baseman to learn to play left field in Minors; club hopes to have him back soon

PHILADELPHIA -- Cody Asche sat in the chair in front of his locker late Monday night at Citizens Bank Park, after the Pirates edged the Phillies, 4-3, still in shock that the Phillies had just optioned him to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Chase Utley stood up, put a hand on his shoulder and leaned in, offering solace to his friend.

Teammates Jeff Francoeur and Darin Ruf offered a few words, too.

Players are optioned, released, designated for assignment and traded with great frequency throughout a six-month season, but the fact the Phillies optioned their everyday third baseman and one of the more popular players in the clubhouse seemed to hit everybody hard. Of course, it hit nobody harder than Asche.

"I'll never stop believing that I'm a big league baseball player," said an emotional Asche. "One hundred percent, whatever challenge comes my way, I'll handle it fine and be back in this uniform soon."

The Phillies sent Asche to Triple-A because they believe Maikel Franco is their third baseman of the future. Franco is not expected to be promoted until Friday at the earliest because if the Phillies wait until then, they can delay Franco's free agency from 2020 to 2021.

But the Phillies still like Asche, so they are trying to find a way for him to remain in the lineup. They think he could be their left fielder. He will try to learn that new position in Triple-A.

"Cody's a big part of the future, and so this is something that's the best for Cody and the organization going forward," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. "When he's ready to be back, he'll be back."

The Phillies actually started Asche's work in left field before Spring Training but ended it once camp opened in February.

"We didn't really pull the plug," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said earlier in the day. "We just put it on hold."

Asche restarted that work in left field late last month in St. Louis, catching him by surprise.

He was surprised once again Monday. Not with the fact they wanted him to play left field, but that they wanted him to learn in the Minor Leagues, where he has not played since 2013.

"I'm surprised, but I understand," Asche said.

Asche's ego might have taken a hit because he believes he can play third base on a daily basis. But there are examples of prominent big leaguers who made the move from infielder to outfielder with success.

The list includes Craig Biggio, Robin Yount, Albert Pujols, Ryan Braun and Alex Gordon.

"He's a good kid," Utley said. "He's a hard worker. I think he understands the situation and is going to go down there and have a positive outlook and try to be the best left fielder he can be. There is no doubt in my mind that he is going to work at it and be a good left fielder. Obviously, we all know that his bat plays at this level. He's still learning, and that's what I like about him. He doesn't think he has it all figured out. He wants to continue to learn and get better.

"So obviously, we are all disappointed that he's not going to be around. And we will see him pretty soon."

Said Asche: "Going forward as an organization, it's better for me to play left fied. So I've got to go do that."

Will he be a good left fielder?

"The best I can be," Asche said.

Asche has 72 hours to report to Lehigh Valley. It is not known when he will report.

"Hope [he reports Tuesday]," Sandberg said. "The sooner he gets going, the sooner he can get some games under his belt and come back."

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for Read his Phillies blog The Zo Zone, follow him on Twitter and listen to his podcast.
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