Phillies GM Frustrated, But Committed to Rebuild and Giving Maikel Franco a Chance

MIAMI - It happens all the time in baseball. The losses pile up. The front office looks to shake things up. An underperforming player is sent to the minor leagues.

The Phillies have a prime candidate for demotion in Maikel Franco. He has struggled much of the season and could probably use some time in the minors to get straightened out. He has a minor-league option.

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The Franco Watch intensified on Tuesday when manager Pete Mackanin was asked if the organization had considered sending Franco to Triple A.

"We've talked about it," Mackanin said. "That's about all I'll say. It's been discussed."

For now, however, it's just in the discussion stage. A demotion is not imminent, according the general manager Matt Klentak.

"We've talked about a lot of things," Klentak said during an interview on CSN's Pregame Live. "We discussed promotions, demotions and trades, as we would in good times or bad.

"We are committed to giving Maikel more time to get out of this. We believe in him. We have confidence that he will (break out). There are a lot of indicators, whether you're looking at his exit velocities and launch angles - again, I don't want to say he's been a victim of bad luck by itself; it's not the only thing, but there are reasons to believe he can get out this.

"It could happen today, it could happen tomorrow, it could happen next week, we don't know. But we're committed to showing confidence in this kid and finding out what he can do and that's really the end of it. Right now, he's important to us and we need to show confidence in him and let him go out there and play."

Franco entered Wednesday's game with just three hits in his previous 25 at-bats to fall to .209 on the season. His on-base percentage was a woeful .268 and he was slugging just .349.

Odubel Herrera, who signed a six-year, $30.5 million contract extension in the offseason, has also struggled, especially in May. He entered Wednesday hitting .181 with a .194 on-base percentage in the month. He'd struck out 29 times and walked just once in that span.

It doesn't sound as if Herrera is going to the minors.

"He's been playing good defense in May, but obviously hasn't been hitting," Klentak said. "I think he's gotten himself into an offensive slump largely because he is not taking pitches as well as he has.

"When you see the productive Odubel Herrera - it's when he's taking close pitches, grinding out walks, pumping his fist and clapping his hands after a walk and pointing to the dugout. We haven't seen that for the last month.

"We have a lot of reason to believe Odubel will come out of it. And the big thing is even when Odubel's not hitting, he is impacting the game. He is one of the better defensive center fielders and really one of the better defensive players in all of baseball. He's more productive when he's hitting, but even when he's merely playing good defense, he's still a valuable player to us."

Klentak reiterated comments he made recently about the job security of manager Pete Mackanin and pitching coach Bob McClure: Both are safe.

The Phillies entered play on Wednesday - the last day of May - with the worst record in the majors at 17-33. They were 6-21 in a dreadful month of May.

"It's been a struggle," Klentak said.

But he remains committed to a long-term rebuild:

"Honestly, what I do when I get frustrated - which I do - is I try to remind myself as much as possible: right now, would we trade places with the current Houston Astros, the current Washington Nationals, the current Chicago Cubs? The answer is yes, but they lived through this.

"The Nationals had the number one pick and were the worst team in baseball two years in a row. The Cubs went through four or five years of top picks. The Astros lost 100 games three years in a row. That doesn't make this any easier to stomach, that's not what I'm saying at all.

"This is kind of where we are right now and we're doing everything we can to try to pull out of it. But teams that have been successful in their rebuilds have gone through stretches like this. Now, our job is to pull out and try to end this."

Klentak said there is an obligation to improve the big-league product, but not in a way that would compromise the long-term rebuild.

"We have to blend and manage the short- and long-term," he said. "We don't have the luxury of placing 100 percent of our focus exclusively on this team. We have to balance the present and the future. What we're not going to do is make a short-sighted decision to help this club at the expense of a player's development in the minor leagues.

"We're not going to rush a player to the big leagues - that does not make sense for us right now. I understand why a lot of people want us to do that. I get it. We have to take the long view in certain cases but there are also certain times where we can push the envelope. Andrew Knapp is a rookie and he had not had a single day of service time before opening day. He's been on the club all year long. We brought up Nick Pivetta, we brought up Jake Thompson, we've brought up Ben Lively - though he never pitched - Ricardo Pinto is here today. It's not like we're sitting back on our hands, either. We will bring up the kids when we need to, but we still have to have a long view at times."

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