SAN FRANCISCO — Jorge Alfaro has been sneaking in a few ground balls during pregame workouts with the Phillies lately.
This is why:
Alfaro, pegged as the Phillies' catcher of the future ever since the team acquired him from Texas in the Cole Hamels trade two years ago, got the start at first base Saturday night against the San Francisco Giants.
With the Phillies averaging just 2.8 runs per game while losing all but one of their last nine games, manager Pete Mackanin was looking to spark the offense. Alfaro hit his first big-league home run earlier on this road trip and had two of the Phillies' four hits in Friday night's loss.
"He's been swinging it well," Mackanin said. "He's played 56 games there (in the minor leagues). I figured we'd give it a shot and keep his bat in the lineup."
Mackanin said he wanted to give regular first baseman Tommy Joseph "a day or two to clear his head." Joseph has struggled mightily since the All-Star break, hitting just .198 with a .240 on-base percentage and a .281 slugging percentage. In 17 games this month, he was hitting .119 (7 for 59) with no homers, four RBIs, a .159 on-base percentage and a .153 slugging percentage.
It made sense to sit Joseph on Saturday night. The Giants were using a left-handed starting pitcher, Ty Blach, and they have another one going Sunday afternoon in Madison Bumgarner. Joseph is hitting just .185 (20 for 108) against lefties for the season. So there's a chance he could sit again Sunday.
Alfaro has his own first baseman's mitt, a sign that this is not new to him. He took ground balls regularly at the position before games at Triple A Lehigh Valley this season. He also played the position during exhibition games for Team Colombia before the World Baseball Classic.
"I wasn't expecting to play first base here," Alfaro said. "But I can play first base. I'm not afraid of it. It’s nice they want me in the lineup. That's what I want. I'm just trying to help the team win."
Rhys Hoskins, a first baseman by trade, continued to play left field as Mackanin looks for a way to get bats in the lineup.