9/2/2014 11:15 P.M. ET
Phillies seek to integrate prospect Franco into lineup
By Todd Zolecki / MLB.com
ATLANTA -- The Phillies hope Maikel Franco is that young, impactful hitter they have been seeking for some time. He will get his opportunity to play this month.
Franco, 22, is one of seven players who joined the Phillies on Tuesday with rosters expanding. He found himself in the starting lineup in Tuesday night's 4-0 win over the Braves, playing third base and hitting seventh. Franco went 0-for-3 with a sacrifice fly in the eighth inning, giving him his first career RBI.
Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said 50-60 at-bats this month for Franco is a good goal.
"I think that would make it worthwhile for him to be here," Sandberg said.
Franco is the organization's No. 3 prospect, according to MLB.com, and he is somebody fans have been eager to see for some time. Franco struggled early this season, but he entered Monday hitting .324 with 16 doubles, three triples, 11 home runs, 47 RBIs and a .922 OPS in 54 games since the end of June.
"In a lot of ways, he kind of forced our hand," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "He showed us that he improved enough to get an opportunity to come up here and play some. Pretty simple. He played very, very good baseball for the entire second half. When we see young players come along, all we really want to see is improvement. And he was clearly doing that.
"He has a lot of things to learn. He's going to struggle. By no means is he a finished product. We still have a lot of young players on the field who are playing. Cody Asche's still not a finished product. He's going to continue to get better. Ben Revere has improved in some areas. Kenny Giles continues to improve every time he comes out. [Jake] Diekman. The young players, the more they get opportunities, the more they can improve."
Amaro agreed it would be wise to play Franco more than just once or twice a week, although he said that decision is up to Sandberg.
"I think that would be a detriment," Amaro said. "I think it would be much better for him to play more than that. We talked about it. I think he would benefit from playing. We don't want him to come here and necessarily sit."
Franco is expected to find most of his playing time at third base, although he also could see time at first.
"He can play both," Amaro said. "But Ryan Howard is our first baseman. He's been playing well and producing. There's no reason to think otherwise. But this is also an opportunity for Franco, [Cesar] Hernandez, maybe some other guys to get to play."
Healthy Gonzalez expected to contribute out of 'pen
ATLANTA -- Plenty of eyes will be focused this month on infielder Maikel Franco, but another September callup worth watching is right-hander Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez.
Gonzalez signed a three-year, $12 million contract last summer as a starting pitcher, but the Phillies made him a reliever because of health concerns.
"Really, all of his struggles were based on his health," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "He's healthy now and has been pitching healthy for the last few months. So this is kind of what we were expecting of the guy right out of the chute.
"He hadn't pitched competitively in a couple of years. He was coming off some issues with his shoulder. He's gotten through them now and seems to be managing them fine. He's been pitching great. He has great stuff."
But could Gonzalez start again, or is he healthy because he is no longer starting? The Phillies said Gonzalez's arm wasn't up to par because of the extended workload as a starter. He hasn't had that issue as a reliever.
"It's still a possibility that he's going to start for us," Amaro said. "We'll talk about it at the end of the year, discuss it with him and go from there. I know that when we signed him, he had great interest in being a starter and a starter only. That may have changed for him, but we will do what's best for the organization. If it's best for us to have him start for us, we will give it a shot. If not, then we won't."
• The Phillies dedicated the ball used for the final out of Monday's combined no-hitter to president David Montgomery, who is on a leave of absence while he recovers from jaw bone cancer surgery.
"I think it was a wonderful gesture," said Amaro, who received a text message from Montgomery following the game. "I think everybody understands what David means to this organization. Even though he's on a hiatus right now, that doesn't mean he doesn't have his presence."
• Amaro and Sandberg said Chase Utley is healthy, and Sandberg simply wanted to get him off his feet late in Monday's no-hitter. Utley was not in Tuesday's lineup.
• Right-hander Jonathan Pettibone has been recovering from right shoulder surgery, but it's unclear if he will be ready to pitch come Opening Day. "That will be determined over the next few months," Amaro said.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.