Updated: Sunday, 12:55 a.m.
Pete Mackanin wants to ask you a question.
If you’re wondering why the Phillies are playing Maikel Franco over the season’s final three games — ones with very little significance — the manager had a simple response Saturday.
"Why not play him?” Mackanin said before his team’s doubleheader against the Miami Marlins at Citizens Bank Park. “I think he's going to be an outstanding middle-of-the-lineup third baseman for us, but he's not yet a star and he's getting paid and I'm going to play him because he's healthy."
Franco started Game 2 of the double dip and will likely play Sunday’s season finale. The rookie, who has been out since Aug. 11 with a fractured left wrist, is 100 percent healthy and pain-free after playing a handful of instructional league games this week in Clearwater, Florida.
"He said he's ready to play,” Mackanin said, “so we're going to get a look at him."
The Phillies got a great look at him in Game 2, as Franco went 2 for 4 with a home run and two RBIs. He swung with his usual authority and appeared as if he never missed a beat.
“Just coming into today, getting ready for everything, right now my wrist is really good — 100 percent," he said after the Phillies were swept in the doubleheader. "I just want to go out there and try to have a good game and help my team win.”
Mackanin has constantly preached the importance of evaluation as the club packs up its rebuild and heads into the offseason. But before the Phillies do, Mackanin sees great value in letting Franco finish the season on the field.
As Mackanin astutely pointed out, Franco may be the club’s franchise third baseman, but he’s only 23 years old with plenty to learn. If fans are worried about his health for a few games, then when should he ever play?
“Just like winter ball, people have made the comment, ‘Why would he want to play winter ball?’ He's still learning,” Mackanin said. “He's not an established major leaguer. He's on his way to becoming one but he's not yet. Every chance you get to play you can learn something and improve, and he needs to do that.”
Franco will play winter ball in his native Dominican Republic. But first, he’ll get a chance to finish his big-league season in Philadelphia instead of ending it in Arizona back on Aug. 11 when he was hit by a pitch and suffered the fracture. At the time, Franco was having a Rookie of the Year-caliber season, leading all qualifying rookies in OPS (.830) and slugging percentage (.490).
Entering Saturday, he was hitting .277 with 13 homers, 48 RBIs in 77 games. He’ll get a shot to add to those numbers with a few more games in 2015.
"I think it's good for us to get a look at him before he leaves,” Mackanin said. “They have down there in Clearwater but we haven't. I'm anxious to see how he looks.
“He appears to be ready to play and wants to play.”