Pain-free swings could lead to Franco’s return

596748The Phillies’ best hitter might make a return to the starting lineup before the end of the 2015 season, after all.

Maikel Franco took 20 pain-free swings in a batting cage before Wednesday night’s game against the Atlanta Braves. The 23-year-old had previously felt discomfort in his wrist when he took swings last week in New York, and had said that if he felt any discomfort while swinging Wednesday, he would not return this season. But after taking comfortable swings, Franco’s chances of playing again this season are still alive.

“I’m just happy to not feel something in my wrist,” Franco told reporters Wednesday.

Interim manager Pete Mackanin has been on the record saying that the team will only let Franco return to the starting lineup if he’s “100 percent healthy.” Mackanin echoed that notion Wednesday.

“As long as he’s 100 percent healthy, then it boils down to how many at-bats he feels comfortable with down in Clearwater,” Mackanin said. “If he plays two or three games and he feels good and we get good reports and he’s anxious to get back, then we’d like to have him back ASAP.”

Franco has been sidelined since Aug. 11 with a broken wrist. With just 22 games left to play this season, the third baseman’s return to the lineup would be short-lived. But Mackanin expressed the desire to have Franco’s bat in the lineup after Wednesday night’s 8-1 loss to the Braves.

“It’s hard to get it going, especially when the guys aren’t swinging the bats that well,” Mackanin said. “We miss Franco’s bat. Not that one guy is going to change everything, but it certainly helps.”

The Phillies have struggled offensively in the month of September, scoring just 35 runs (22nd in MLB) and posting a meager .663 team OPS (27th in MLB) through eight games. Getting Franco’s bat would certainly improve those numbers, but as Mackanin said, one guy can’t “change everything.”

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