9/2/2013 8:05 P.M. ET
With Utley extended, Hernandez experiments in center
By Michael Radano / Special to MLB.com
PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies believe that Cesar Hernandez has the type of tools they can use to develop the 23-year-old into an everyday Major League player. The problem is Hernandez has moved through the system as a second baseman and with the recent extension signed by Chase Utley, that position is theoretically locked up for the next two to five seasons.
With the understanding that it would only accelerate his learning curve in the Minors, Hernandez, who made his Major League debut on May 29, spent his return to the Minor Leagues developing a second possibility and his time in center field paid off as he returned to the Phillies on Sunday and found himself in the starting lineup against Washington on Monday.
"I'm very happy to be back," Hernandez said through a translator. "It's a challenge, but I felt good in center field. I can still play in the infield and be comfortable in center field."
This year, Hernandez hit .309 in 104 games at Triple-A Lehigh Valley. He had a pair of home runs and 27 RBIs, but more to the point, Hernandez hit nine triples, which showcased raw speed. His range was the one asset the Phillies' front office felt could be better exploited in center, and so the experiment began to some degree -- he still played second with the Iron Pigs -- in earnest.
"When he left here two months ago, the idea was to just give him another position to play to give him some versatility to his resume," Phillies interim manager Ryne Sandberg said. "Center field was looked at because of his speed and range. He has a real nice stride that's noticeable. He seems to have adapted very well. This here is another challenge for him, but it's a good chance to see where he's at.
"He has a plus bat for his age. He uses the gaps well, and has power in a smaller looking body. He can swing the bat a little bit. I see him being initially a bench player and get some odd starts, but to do that, you need to be versatile and that's what the center field move is about."
Phils bringing improving Asche along slowly
PHILADELPHIA -- Rookie third baseman Cody Asche was out of the starting lineup on Monday, but that was all a part of the schedule the Phillies laid out when the youngster tweaked his right hamstring during last week's road trip.
"He passed the test of playing in a game yesterday," interim manager Ryne Sandberg said. "The whole plan, strategy was to give him a day off after he played one game and to be careful and bring him along. He felt fine today, but that was the plan and we're sticking to it today."
After a slow start to his Major League career -- just one hit in his first 17 at-bats -- Asche has found a good rhythm and is hitting .288 (21-for-72) with a pair of home runs and 13 RBIs since that start. More importantly, the Phillies can monitor his status up close as the plan remains for him to get a bulk of the playing time at third base over the final month of the season. That would be true even had Michael Young not been traded to the Dodgers on Saturday.
"I don't think anything changes [with Young being gone]," Sandberg said. "He was going to get his playing time at third base. As it turns out, it opens the door for someone else play more first base. I'd like to see [Darin] Ruf play first as we go along. I know [Asche] learned a lot from Michael, so that's a plus."
• Domonic Brown had an MRI Monday that showed bursitis around his right Achilles heel, according to interim manager Ryne Sandberg.
"It's a pain tolerance thing," Sandberg said. "It's a thing that's day to day and will get better. For tonight, he's in a pinch-hit situation."
• Darin Ruf wasn't in the lineup as Sandberg has been looking to give him a rest in the middle of a 20-games-in-20-days stretch. The Phillies have an off-day set for Thursday.
• All six of the Phillies Minor League teams finished at or below .500 this year. Both the Triple-A Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs (72-72) and Rookie Gulf Coast League Phillies (30-30) broke even.
• With rosters expanding to 40 on Monday, the Phillies recalled infielder Freddy Galvis, right-handers Tyler Cloyd and Luis Garcia, and left-handers Mauricio Robles and Joe Savery from triple-A Lehigh Valley. Additionally, catcher Cameron Rupp had his contract selected from Lehigh Valley.
Michael Radano is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.