Phillies Lineup

Bohm sits as Phillies try to get Merrifield going

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Whit Merrifield played all nine innings in four of the Phillies' first six games this season but had started just three of their previous 10 heading into Monday.

Manager Rob Thomson gave Alec Bohm the night off and started Merrifield at third base in the Phillies' series opener against the Rockies.

"It kills two birds with one stone," Thomson said, referring to the lack of time Bohm has had off his feet.

Getting Merrifield going is a priority. He has just 27 plate appearances through the first 16 games and has gone 3-for-25 (.120) without an extra-base hit or RBI.

The Phillies signed him just as spring training began to a one-year, $8 million contract. They looked at Merrifield as the sort of finishing depth piece contending teams often need, a versatile veteran who could start or provide protection off the bench in case of injury or underperformance.

The thought was that Merrifield would spell one of Johan Rojas, Brandon Marsh or Bryson Stott, which would get him into the lineup two or three times per week. Merrifield welcomed the challenge and said that he knows he can hit his way into more playing time. His goal is to make the decisions difficult for Thomson.

One-tenth of the way through the season, it hasn't happened.

"I think it's taken its toll on the quality of his at-bats, not playing every day," Thomson said. "But he'll get it going. You just get used to the role. It's a process. You've got to prepare a little bit differently. I think he'll be able to."

This role isn't brand new to Merrifield. He was an everyday player for the Royals from 2017-22 but became a part-timer when he was traded to the Blue Jays at the 2022 deadline, starting only 34 of Toronto's final 58 games.

He hit .182 in his first 71 plate appearances as a Blue Jay, then hit .400 in his final 59 while playing nearly every day.

"It was difficult early because when I got traded over, I wanted to kinda prove myself and I was getting two at-bats a series," he said in spring training. "It was back like being 25 again trying to make the big-league team and getting two at-bats in spring training. It was like, 'These at-bats carry a lot of weight,' so that was difficult.

"But then I got going, I got hot and was in there a lot. I've found that with my versatility, I find ways in the lineup, and if I'm playing well, I stay in the lineup. It was a transition of trying to prove I'm a good player to a new team, but once I kinda hit that heater and got to show people what I can do, after that it was easy."

After Monday vs. right-hander Cal Quantrill, the Phillies are set to face a left-handed starting pitcher in four of the next eight games: Austin Gomber, Garrett Crochet, Austin Abbott and Nick Lodolo. That should result in more starts for Merrifield.

"At this point in my career being on a good team, I just want to contribute and if I'm playing well, I'll probably be in there," he said. "If I'm going through a stretch where I'm not playing well, we've got a lot of good guys on this team who can step in and carry some at-bats."

Most of those hitters haven't clicked through the first five series, and as a result, the .162 combined batting average from Rojas, Merrifield and Cristian Pache at the bottom of the order has stuck out even more.

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