ST. LOUIS -- Pete Mackanin might have found a hitter for his struggling Phillies' offense.
Cesar Hernandez's trip to the disabled list has moved Howie Kendrick from left field to second base (see story).
These moving parts allowed reserve outfielder Daniel Nava to get five at-bats in Sunday's 6-5 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals.
In the starting lineup for the first time since May 19, before he went on the disabled list with a hamstring strain, Nava had a single to help the Phillies get on the board in the first inning and a solo homer in the seventh.
Nava has 21 hits in 67 at-bats this season (.313) and his OPS is .927.
Mackanin almost has no choice but to add him to the regular outfield mix. Odubel Herrera and Aaron Altherr deserve regular reps. Getting Nava more playing time could come at the expense of Michael Saunders, who is hitting .203 with a .609 OPS. Both of those marks are among the worst in baseball.
"I'd like to find more playing time for him," Mackanin said of Nava. "He can hit. There's a good chance I can get him in there more, which I'd like to do. He looks like one of our better hitters."
The Phillies signed Saunders for one year at $9 million in hopes that he'd be a middle-of-the-lineup run producer.
It has not happened.
"He can't get it going," Mackanin said. "He has to start getting hits. It's as simple as that."
Nava credited hard work in the batting cage with staying sharp while getting limited game at-bats.
"That's why we practice," he said. "That's what we do when we're not playing. We're still swinging."