The Phillies have a handful of problems.
Their latest, though, doesn’t involve their inept pitching staff or shaky bullpen, but rather their outfield alignment. With Howie Kendrick set to return off the disabled list, manager Pete Mackanin will have to figure out who plays, who sits and who goes where among the collection of outfielders on this roster.
“In other words,” Mackanin stated after the Phillies 8-4 loss to Cincinnati on Sunday, “I don’t have a set outfield. I’m going to mix those guys up.”
Not having a set outfield has to be a disappointment for this organization considering the money they invested in Michael Saunders and the fact that their center fielder, Odubel Herrera, has looked anything but the all-star version of himself from a year ago.
Mackanin will have to choose between Aaron Altherr, Brock Stassi, Saunders, Herrera and Kendrick. There’s also the possibility that someone like Nick Williams or Roman Quinn gets a call-up, only complicating the issue at hand.
In regards to Herrera, Mackanin said he’ll “probably have to move him down in the lineup” after going hitless in two straight games and having just one hit in his past five outings, including a dreadful 0-for-5 with five strikeouts against Colorado.
The two-hole hitter is batting .217, far below the .286 from 2016 and .297 as a rookie.
“I can’t keep him in the two-hole,” Mackanin said. “He’s got to fight his way out of it. We’ll see what happens when Kendrick gets back.”
With Herrera struggling mightily, there’s a good chance Mackanin puts him on the bench for a bit, moving Altherr and his rangy defense to center field with Kendrick in left field and Saunders in right.
The Phillies plan on moving slowly with Kendrick upon his return. Prior to going down with an oblique injury, the first-year Phillie was putting an impressive campaign together, hitting .333 and leading the team at the time in most offensive categories.
Saunders, meanwhile, sits at a .231 average with minimal power numbers in six home runs and 19 RBI.
Altherr has been the team’s best outfielder and all-around player this season with a .303 average, 26 RBI and eight homers. Mackanin has to pencil him into the lineup on a regular basis.
Pairing Altherr with a potential call-up of Williams would give fans something to watch on an otherwise lackluster team. Altherr, Williams and Quinn could be the future of this team in the outfield and getting a look at them all together this season would be a fun change of pace for this club.
That, however, is probably a bit away but a chance of one of them coming up shortly is looking more and more likely with each passing game.
That being said, Mackanin will have his hands full with making the lineup on a regular basis because of this log jam to go along with underperformances from Herrera and Saunders.