7/20/2014 2:15 P.M. ET
Strong-armed Rupp impresses at big league level
By Jon Cooper / Special to MLB.com
ATLANTA -- Phillies starter Cole Hamels may have been giddy throwing his new two-seam fastball Saturday night, but the other nights of the week, he's having fun watching the development of young catcher Cameron Rupp.
"He's getting a really good idea of how to call a ballgame with our strengths," said Hamels. "It's been fun to see, because he's always had a great arm. With what he's able to do and what he's able to bring, hopefully he's going to turn out to be a really good Major League catcher."
Rupp, the Phillies' third-round pick in 2010, caught in four games last September and was recalled from Lehigh Valley on June 19, when backup catcher Wil Nieves went on the disabled list with a right quad injury. He'd become the starter when Carlos Ruiz went on the DL on the June 24 with a concussion. Rupp has caught 15 games for Phillies, getting the day off Sunday afternoon.
Since a 3-for-26 start at the plate over his first eight games, Rupp has turned it around, batting .273 (6-for-22) with a pair of doubles and four RBIs and recording a hit in five of his last seven games prior to Sunday.
But Rupp's defense has never wavered. Known for his great arm, he's cut down 41.7 percent of attempted basestealers (5-of-12), including Braves stolen base leader B.J. Upton in the eighth inning Saturday night with the Phillies protecting a 2-1 lead.
"He's got a rocket of an arm," said manager Ryne Sandberg. "He's really showing that. A good release, good tag by [second baseman] Chase [Utley]. It was a big play."
It's all part of Rupp getting more comfortable at the Major League level.
"I feel like the game's slowing down for him and he's feeling a lot more comfortable out there," said veteran catcher and mentor Koyie Hill, who caught the series finale against the Braves. "Mechanically and technically, he's pretty sound. He throws well, he blocks well. He receives the ball well.
"Now it's just learning the tendencies of his pitching staff and learning the league, and that just comes from experience. Cameron's very absorbent as a student, and he does a good job of picking things up and utilizing things during the game."
Rupp is starting to get on the same wavelength with the veteran rotation that includes Hamels, A.J. Burnett and, come Monday, Cliff Lee.
"They know what they want to do," Rupp said. "My thought process is a suggestion of what I think is the right thing. They're going to disagree. It happens with everybody. So that's just kind of part of it."
When in sync, it's pretty cool.
"That's a great feeling," Rupp said. "When you have that going with guys, it's like sitting in a rocking chair back there. They're putting the ball where they want it and getting outs, getting early outs, not throwing too many pitches. It makes for a fun night."
With Ruiz and Nieves both nearing returns and Sandberg not a fan of keeping three catchers, Rupp's future in Philly is uncertain, but for now, he's happy living in the present.
"I just come to the ballpark ready to go every day and whatever happens, happens," Rupp said. "But it's been a great opportunity for me to be up here and get to experience a big league clubhouse. It's been exciting."
Asche earns praise for improved offensive approach
ATLANTA -- Cody Asche will never be accused of not respecting the game of baseball. At the same time, he also refuses to overthink it.
"Just try not to over-complicate things," said the Phillies third baseman, who has cemented his place at third despite seeing his 10-game hitting streak end Saturday night. "I'm really just trying to be a part of the offense. Be one of the eight hitters when called upon. I think that's really a key for me.
"You don't want to go into a game thinking you've got to drive in eight runs to win. You can't hit a five-run homer. … Know what the situation dictates, then try to execute that. Whether it's a hit-and-run, getting a runner over, a sac fly. If there's a time where you have to try to get into one, then you do that. You really just focus in on trying to be a team hitter."
The improved approach, especially since his return from the disabled list on June 20, is noticeable and is earning positive feedback.
"He's been playing well," said general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. "I think he's gaining some confidence. It's really about experience. The young kids have to get a chance to play. He's getting his chance to play.
"He was real hot when he got hurt, which is unfortunate, but I think he's getting back into it again. He's still working on some stuff defensively and offensively, but he's contributing and he's taking more aggressive swings, making pretty good contact. I like what I see out of Cody."
Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg agreed.
"He seems to be nice and aggressive right from the get-go at home plate, looking for a pitch to hit. Going up there to do something with the pitch," said Sandberg, making reference to Friday night and Asche's second-inning sacrifice fly that gave the Phillies a 1-0 lead. "For him, to stay consistent, it's using the whole field and staying with a left-center stroke when needed and reacting inside to the pull side. Sometimes he tends to get a little bit pull-happy."
Sandberg ideally sees Asche as a gap-to-gap guy who will hit for average and still hit in the 15- to 20-homer range. He also is impressed with Asche's defensive progress.
"I know that he has good work habits and seems to make adjustments and show improvement as he's gone. That's what we see at third right now," Sandberg said. "He has a good, true arm. A strong arm and a real, true flight on the ball."
Asche, a fourth-round pick in 2011 who started in 42 games in 2013 and turned 24 last month, isn't believing the hype, but he is believing in himself as he seeks to finish the season strong one at-bat at a time.
"I have confidence in myself, not to let one at-bat dictate the next," Asche said. "Each at-bat is independent of the next. Don't let the result of what happened that last at-bat dictate how you approach your next one.
"Like when you see [Ryan Howard] got one off the hands and it dropped for two RBIs. The next at-bat, he smokes one and [Jason] Heyward makes an unbelievable catch in right. That's baseball. You can't get mad at the game. You can't get mad at baseball for being baseball."
• It was a good night at the plate for all three Phillies playing in rehab assignments, as they hit a combined .400 as a group (4-for-10). Ruiz went 1-for-4 at the plate and infielder Reid Brignac, playing at short, was 2-for-3 with a double and a walk for Class A Advanced Clearwater. Backup catcher Wil Nieves went 1-for-3 with an RBI for Double-A Reading in Game 1 of their doubleheader.
Team results were positive on the whole. Clearwater dropped its game, 4-2, at Bradenton, but Reading swept the doubleheader against New Britain. They won the opener, 1-0, and took the nightcap, 3-2, a makeup game from June 12.
Jon Cooper is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.