Asher trying to pitch his way into 2017 plans
PHILADELPHIA >> Aaron Nola was through with an elbow injury. Zach Eflin needed one knee operation, then another. Vince Velasquez had reached an innings limit.
For that, the Phillies had an opportunity for Alec Asher. It could have been as a place-holder. It could have been as a legitimate, young, starting-pitching hopeful.
“It all depends on how well he does,” Pete Mackanin said the other day. “Last year, he did poorly. This year, he added a two-seamer and a changeup and he looks like he’s got better pitch ability right now. He certainly has done OK. Everybody has a chance. It’s a nice group.”
Though the Phillies would fall, 5-4, to the Miami Marlins Sunday, Asher at least would be presentable, working 4.1 innings, striking out four and walking none. After surrendering two runs in the fifth, Asher needed help from Joely Rodriguez, who coaxed Ichiro Suzuki into a double-play grounder.
But Asher had made at least one more move toward consideration for a 2017 rotation spot.
“I thought it went well,” he said. “I executed a lot of pitches. The hits they got, I felt were soft singles. They find holes. There’s nothing you can do about it.”
Asher spent most of the summer ineligible after failing a performance-enhancing-drug test. But circumstances have given him three late-season big-league starts, two good for six-plus innings, none in which he’s allowed more than two runs.
Asher was 0-6 with a 9.31 ERA for the Phils after arriving last season from Texas in the Cole Hamels haul. He has been a better pitcher this season.
“I started implementing the sinker and the two-seamer in the spring,” he said. “It’s been great. And then I have kind of worked on lately trying to slowly add depth to the slider, add side-to-side movement. So I am working with a couple different types of sliders right now.”
Mackanin’s quick hook Sunday hinted that he remains undersold on Asher. The manager has said, though, that he will try to win every game, and the move to the lefthanded Rodriguez was successful.
“I mean of course I want to stay in and compete,” Asher said. “I wanted to get out of my own jam. But it’s not my decision.”
All he can do is pitch. And he has done that a point where it could push him back onto the fringes of the Phillies’ plans.
“Yeah,” he said. “There is a lot of young talent. It’s a healthy competition.”
*** Freddy Galvis joined Jimmy Rollins and Granny Hamner as the only Phillies shortstops to hit 20 homers in a season when he took Dustin McGowan deep in the sixth.
“I was just thinking try to get my swing back before the season was done, to try to go into the offseason with a plan and try to feel good about my swing,” he said. “Like I said, I’ve finally found a good swing, a good approach and I’m going to try to keep doing it.”
*** Hector Neris has been a dependable eighth-inning pitcher all season. Sunday, though, he was caught in a three-run eighth, allowing a two-run homer to Christian Yelich. He was also victimized by two infield errors, including a bobbled pop-up when Cesar Hernandez and Tommy Joseph semicollided.
Though Neris has thrown 75.2 innings, he insists he is not tired.
“Nothing is hurting in my arm,” he assured. NOTES >> Ryan Howard needed another day off Sunday to deal with fluid on his left knee. He could be available to play Tuesday, Mackanin said … The Phils are off Monday. The White Sox will visit Tuesday, when Jake Thompson (2-5, 5.64 ERA) will face right-hander James Shields (5-17, 5.84). Wednesday at 7:05, it will be Jerad Eickhoff (10-14, 3.74) and left-hander Chris Sale (16-8, 3.03) … Odubel Herrera was 2-for-4 with his 14th homer. He has a four-game multiple-hit streak. Mackanin: “I think the minute Roman Quinn got here, he started really turning it on. He saw Quinn and said, ‘Hey, wait, I’m better than this guy. I better get back on track.’”
The Marlins’ Dee Gordon (9) is tagged out at first on a rundown by Phillies starting pitcher Alec Asher in the third inning Sunday in Philadelphia.