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Asche aims to prove himself next season

PHILADELPHIA -- The morning after the Phillies traded Chase Utley in August, and shortly before he boarded a flight to join his new Dodgers teammates in Houston, the iconic Phillies second baseman sat in the clubhouse one final time to sign a few bats for people. A short time later, his locker was empty.

Cody Asche lost his clubhouse neighbor that day, and he also lost one of his biggest supporters. Utley, like many inside the Phillies' organization, had an affinity for Asche, and it seems everybody wants him to succeed.

They hope it happens next season because it might be Asche's final opportunity to prove himself in Philadelphia. Asche hit .245 with 22 doubles, three triples, 12 home runs, 39 RBIs and a .689 OPS in 456 plate appearances this season. If he had enough plate appearances to qualify, he would have ranked 121st out of 143 players in OPS.

"If you're not improving in this game, it's kind of a loss," Asche said on the final day of the season. "It's always a goal as a player to improve every single day. You can sit and say what you are, and who you think you are, but until you do it, it's really just talk. It's going to be a long offseason for me. I just have to stay disciplined to make sure I'm doing everything I can to get better.

"It's just the overall consistency of at-bats. The best hitters don't have those 10 to 12 at-bat lapses, where you kind of look lost. I think I have the ability to be a good hitter. It just comes down to being disciplined on a daily basis, being disciplined in every at-bat and every game over a long season."

If Maikel Franco never existed, Asche would still be at third base, and the Phillies could afford to be more patient with him. But Franco established himself as the team's everyday third baseman, which forced Asche to the outfield.

And the Phillies' outfield is getting more and more crowded.

Odubel Herrera is the team's center fielder, following a strong rookie season. Aaron Altherr has earned a longer look with a combined 71 extra-base hits this year, including 20 in 161 plate appearances with the Phillies. In fact, Altherr's performance and potential probably will have Domonic Brown playing elsewhere next year. Top prospects Nick Williams and Roman Quinn could open next season in Triple-A, which means they could be in the big leagues at some point in 2016.

The Phillies also figure to resign Jeff Francoeur or sign another veteran outfielder.

That means if Asche is in Clearwater, Fla., in February for Spring Training, he will need to produce.

"That's an unanswered question," Asche said, when asked if he knows where he stands entering the offseason. "I really think the answer lies within myself, and how I come out and play in Spring Training. It's up to me to take advantage and force my way back into the lineup."

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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