Cody Asche and his bat would have come in handy for the Phillies at times this season. Instead, Asche, who suffered an injured oblique early in camp, and then another setback while working his way back and playing in a minor league game, has spent most of the Spring in Clearwater, not able to play or even take swings in a batting cage. An injured oblique is the type of injury that you simply have to wait out and the slightest of aggravation to the injury can cause a major setback, which was the case with Asche's injury.
"You just have to let it take its course, there's not really anything you can do, you can't speed up the process, you can't just push through it. You just have to let it completely heal before you can do anything," said Asche as he prepared for his first rehab game with the Lehigh Valley IronPigs on Friday.
Asche started a rehab assignment two weeks ago with Clearwater and then moved up to Double-A Reading eight days later. Between the two stops, the 25-year old is hitting just .147 (5-for-34), but does have two home runs. If his return to the majors was based solely on his health, Asche would be ready to go. Unfortunately, the extended amount of time off has thrown his swing well out of kilter and he's still having trouble getting it back to where it needs to be, at least on a consistent basis.
"Body-wise I'm good, but my swing could be a little more comfortable at the plate. It's just timing and things that you have to knock the rust off, because I had an extended amount of time away from hitting. As easy as some guys make it look, it's not that easy," said Asche. "Swinging is fine, it's just finding some timing and rhythm at the plate for four straight at-bats, not having it for one at-bat in a game, but having it for four straight at-bats and then having it for two, three days straight."
It turns out that even though many people love the Clearwater area, it's not much fun for an athlete when they're on the DL. To kill time, Asche admitted taking some naps, watching movies and when he was really bored, he'd go for a swim. The only thing that made the time bearable for him was having his wife in Clearwater with him while he was waiting to get back to baseball activities. Watching the Phillies get off to a better than expected start even though some of their outfielders struggled, didn't add any frustration to the process for Asche. Even though he's been through rehabbing before, Asche admits this has been different, because of the type of injury and how much patience he had to have.
"I think it was going to be equally as frustrating whether they went 0-50 or 50-0," said Asche of the Phillies start to the season. "Even as experienced as I am, having done rehab things before, it was difficult to stay patient and not look too far forward. Just taking it one-day at a time is tough, but you can't do anything about that," Asche admitted. "It was pretty disappointing, just because at that point, I knew I was going to be looking at an extended period of time. Being down in Florida for a long time after your teammates leave isn't a lot of fun."
Another member of the Phillies walking wounded had his rehab stint moved to Lehigh Valley Friday. Reliever Mario Hollands was also moved from Reading to Lehigh Valley and is slated to pitch at least one inning, and possibly, two on Sunday. Hollands missed all of last season and this season, so far, after undergoing Tommy John surgery. In six games with Clearwater and Reading, Hollands has a 1.04 ERA in six relief appearances, covering 8 2/3 innings. He's struck out 12 hitters in that span. Hollands started his rehab assignment with Clearwater on May 9th.
Position players can take up to 20 days on rehab, and pitchers can take up to 30 days before they either have to be activated from the DL or have the rehab stint ended. That means that Asche's stint ends on June 2nd, while Hollands has until June 8th. Lehigh Valley is home through June 1st, so both could conceivably finish up their stint with the IronPigs prior to being activated. Asche says that he hasn't been given any immediate timetable for his return to Philadelphia and said that it really depends on how he feels and how his swing is coming along.