Could Tommy Joseph Be on His Way Sooner Rather Than Later?

ATLANTA – Being an unexpected five games over .500 after 33 games has allowed Phillies manager Pete Mackanin to be somewhat patient with his struggling first-base platoon.

But his patience won't last forever.

"It's got to get better," he said of the platoon's production. "My options are limited. But it's only May 10. We're not going to panic."

Ryan Howard is tied for the team lead with seven homers and tied for second on the club with 15 RBIs. But after an 0-for-4 performance in Tuesday night's 3-2 win over Atlanta (see game recap), he is hitting .177 with a .647 OPS. He has 36 strikeouts in 96 at-bats.

Meanwhile, Darin Ruf, the right-handed-hitting half of the platoon, is batting .164 with a .413 OPS and 18 strikeouts in 55 at-bats.

The Phillies' offensive struggles at first base could soon lead to the club giving Tommy Joseph a look. Joseph, a right-handed hitter, entered Tuesday leading the International League in hitting (.368), slugging (.655) and OPS (1.096).

Joseph, 24, converted to first base last season after a series on concussions forced a move from catcher. He is not a standout defender, but the Phils have not prioritized that at the position in recent years. If Joseph were to come up, it would be to help an offense that is scoring 3.24 runs per game, the second-lowest mark in the majors.

Howard's occasional power will likely buy him more playing time against right-handers, but Joseph could slide in against lefties if the Phils wanted to give him a look. The upcoming schedule is ripe with lefties. The Cincinnati Reds come to Citizens Bank Park for a series beginning Friday night. They are scheduled to use lefty starters Brandon Finnegan and John Lamb in the first two games of the series. The Miami Marlins come to town on Monday night. If they stay in rotation they, too, would use lefties in the first two games.

So Joseph could be an attractive bat for the Phillies as soon as this weekend. The flipside to all this is that the Phillies stick with Ruf and try to get him going with a bunch of at-bats against lefties during the early part of the homestand.

Stay tuned.

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