5/27/2014 8:52 P.M. ET
Phillies seek return to securing basepaths
By Todd Zolecki and Erik Bacharach / MLB.com
PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies led the Majors in Spring Training with a 44.8 stolen-base percentage and 16 runners caught stealing by a catcher, but that hasn't translated into success in the regular season.
Entering Tuesday night's game vs. the Rockies, runners were successful in stealing 79.2 percent of the time against the Phillies, ranking Philadelphia 22nd in the big leagues. And the Phillies are getting run on often -- the 38 stolen bases allowed by their catchers ranked seventh highest in the league.
There's little that can be done against the Dee Gordons and Billy Hamiltons of baseball, with those two players alone combining for eight stolen bases against Philadelphia this season, but Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg still wants to see his team operating closer to where it was during Spring Training.
"We need to get better," Sandberg said. "Dee Gordon and Hamilton, they're a whole different class. We timed Dee Gordon at 3.1 [seconds] on a steal. Hamilton was the same thing. That's tough. You pitch out; you don't get the guy. We try and do some different things and do some different varied holds, picks and things like that. A.J. Burnett is having a particularly tough time with his condition of shortening up and not straining himself. He's trying to do some other things, but that's an ongoing process."
Ruiz finances search, rescue of friends in Panama
PHILADELPHIA -- Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz hired boats, helicopters and airplanes to search for his hometown friends whose fishing boat capsized near Panama on Saturday night. Walter Dubarran and Jose Mercedes Rodriguez were lost at sea for 35 to 40 hours before they were able to get on the phone to tell Ruiz they had been rescued.
"It was very emotional," Ruiz said through a translator. "For me, the guys thanking me for all I did. For helping those guys go out there and try to find them. We were all thanking the Lord. It was joyful. And they were thanking me again for what I did financially. Everybody was ecstatic."
Wil Nieves got the start at catcher for Sunday afternoon's game, but Ruiz was at the ballpark and said he was available to catch if he was needed.
"It was very difficult; I didn't get a whole lot of sleep," Ruiz said. "But at the same time, I knew that I had a job to do here with the ballclub. It was kind of hard to keep my concentration, but I just focused, left everything to God and I knew I had to be here for this club."
Phils unlikely to call up Franco for injured Asche
PHILADELPHIA -- It does not sound as if Triple-A third baseman Maikel Franco is an option to play third base while Cody Asche is on the disabled list.
"He's just not playing good enough baseball yet," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "He's not really ready to be a big leaguer yet."
Franco returned to the IronPigs lineup Monday after missing a couple of days with an upper respiratory issue. He is hitting .231 with four home runs, 19 RBIs and a .669 OPS. After a poor start, he has hit .292 with an .851 OPS in 27 games since April 23.
But within those 27 games, he hit just .125 (3-for-24) over his past seven.
Asche is on the DL with a strained left hamstring. The Phillies said they hoped Asche could return June 7, when he is eligible to be activated. Under that timeline, there are just 10 more days for Franco to get a callup.
That does not leave much of a window for Franco, rated the club's top prospect by MLB.com, to suddenly become a big leaguer in the eyes and minds of the Phillies' front office.
Meanwhile, Cesar Hernandez continues to play third base in Asche's absence. He entered Tuesday hitting .129 (4-for-31).
"There's no reason to bring Franco unless he's ready to be a big leaguer as far as I'm concerned," Amaro said. "If he puts together a few days. Offensively, he's made some adjustments, he's made some improvements better than in the earlier part of the season, but he's not really going on all cylinders now. We're still contemplating it. We'll see how it goes."
Sandberg sits Howard, Brown vs. lefty De La Rosa
PHILADELPHIA -- With left-hander Jorge De La Rosa on the hill for Colorado on Tuesday, both Ryan Howard and Domonic Brown were removed from the Phillies' lineup in favor of John Mayberry Jr. and Darin Ruf, two right-handed bats.
Howard had a monster game on Monday evening, going 3-for-4 with a homer and five RBIs, but Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg thought it would be a good opportunity to give his first baseman a rest.
"[Howard's] played a number of games in a row and had a real good approach against a right-handed pitcher last night," Sandberg said before Tuesday night's game. "Then we have four right-handed pitchers in a row after that with another lefty the fifth day. And after a big game like that, a good game, sometimes that's a good time to give a guy a break and make it a positive and let him build on that against the right-handed pitching that's coming up after tonight's game."
The Phillies' lineup is still searching for consistency -- over their past 17 home games, they have been held to one run three times and been shut out six times -- and Sandberg is open to experimenting with platoons.
"If it happens to work and if it produces, that becomes an opportunity and a possibility going forward," Sandberg said. "Just to possibly get some consistency with the offense against right-handed and left-handed pitching."
• Phillies physician Michael Ciccotti examined right-hander Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez on Tuesday in Philadelphia. Amaro said he complained of a "dead arm" following his latest rehab start with Class A Advanced Clearwater. No results were immediately available.
• Amaro did not seem alarmed by the fact left-hander Cliff Lee, who is on the DL with a strained left elbow, was not ready to throw. Lee was scheduled to be evaluated again Wednesday.
"We're just trying to wait until he's completely pain-free," Amaro said. "Could he have picked up a baseball yesterday and thrown it? Sure. But there's no reason for us to push him right now. It has a chance to be detrimental. So we'll wait until he's pain-free, and he'll start tossing and we'll go from there."
Regardless, it seems Lee will miss at least a few weeks, possibly much longer. "It could be up to a month, it could be a month and a half, it could be three weeks," Amaro said. "I have no idea when the guy is going to be ready to pitch. I really don't. I would think it be sooner rather than later, but I have no timetable until he's up and throwing again."
• Are there Chase Utley trade rumors? If not, there will be soon, unless the team begins to play well.
"They surface because he's a good player and we're not in first place; that's why they surface," Amaro said while downplaying the suggestion the Phillies would trade one of their more iconic players.
"First off, no one wants to trade Chase Utley, and No. 2, I don't think Chase Utley wants to go anywhere, and he has the power to decide what he wants to do," Amaro said. "The point is kind of moot. The same with Jimmy [Rollins]. The same story."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. Erik Bacharach is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.