Cody Asche is headed back down to the minors. For the second straight year, the Phillies have optioned Asche to Triple A Lehigh Valley because of both performance and the need for him to increase his versatility.
Asche, demoted Friday to make room on the Phils' 25-man roster for the returning Peter Bourjos (see story), will play some first base and third base at Triple A, manager Pete Mackanin said. The idea is to make him as well-rounded as possible because he looks at this point more like a bench piece than an everyday player.
Asche had a productive June, hitting .289/.333/.482 with 10 doubles and two homers in 90 plate appearances. But he stopped hitting right around the All-Star break, and was 9 for his last 75 (.120) at the time of the demotion.
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Asche wasn't thrilled with the news, but he took it in stride. This wasn't his first time being sent down.
"I can't sit here and say I got screwed or anything," Asche said. "It's a performance business. If you don't perform, you have to go somewhere else. ... Hopefully I'll go down there and figure it out sooner rather than later."
Asche came up with the Phillies as a third baseman. He lost that job last season to Maikel Franco. The Phillies sent him to Triple A last May to learn left field, and because Asche's bat hasn't progressed enough, some look at that position switch as the reason any time he struggles.
But in reality, Asche hit .245 last season before he was demoted and .245 after he was brought back up. He just hasn't hit enough in four big-league seasons — in nearly 1,300 plate appearances, he's batted .241 with a .298 on-base percentage and .388 slugging percentage. That's not enough offensive production from a corner infielder or corner outfielder who doesn't have above-average speed or defensive ability.
Asche hasn't and still doesn't use the third base/left field thing as an excuse.
"No," he said flatly when asked if the position switch affected his development. "I'm 25 years old. I've been up and down. I've gone through some stuff. I'm not the first player that's had a start to their career like this. And I probably won't be the first player to turn things around and in a couple years sit back and wonder, ‘What did they do, what really clicked?' I'm not unique in this sense to where I can just say, 'Hey, I blame the Phillies for where I'm at.' Because I don't."
Asche does not need to be an everyday player to provide the Phillies some value. The Phils are set at third base with Franco, and they're moving in the right direction in the outfield with Aaron Altherr, Odubel Herrera and prospects Nick Williams and Roman Quinn, who are closing in on their major-league debuts (see story).
Asche, if he hits enough, could be a bench bat capable of playing four positions.
He sees the direction the Phillies are headed and which players they seem inclined to devote playing time to. Is Asche worried about his standing in the organization?
"Yes and no," he said. "Because I understand how exciting you guys feel the prospects are. But in reality, the way teams are built, and the way that those guys come up and succeed is when they're surrounded with people who know what's going on and can kind of guide them through what needs to be done. I don't really worry about my future within the organization. I would hope I'm respected enough to where if my ability shows, that I have a spot in this room and that's all I can really hope for."