As expected, Cody Asche claims third base job; Phillies reassign Maikel Franco

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The Phillies hoped the competition for the third base job would have been more heated. After going 2-for-4 with a solo homer against the Pirates on Saturday afternoon, Cody Asche — the incumbent at the hot corner — brought his Grapefruit League average up to .175. His competition, 21-year-old top prospect Maikel Franco, wasn’t faring any better with a .184 average and a .409 OPS.

Franco has been demoted, CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury reports. There, Franco will look to build upon his breakout season at Double-A last year, when he hit .320 with 31 home runs. He still has some concerns about his defense, but manager Ryne Sandberg also sees some room for improvement offensively:

“He needs to get some seasoning and work on some things, more on the offensive side,” Sandberg said. “He needs to work on shortening his swing and getting some better line-drive type of contact.”

Asche, meanwhile, will hold the fort down at third base after hitting .235 with five home runs in 179 trips to the plate last season. The Phillies expect Franco to claim the third base job at some point, if not at some point this season, then at this time next year.

Padres, Mariners join list of teams to extend netting

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The Reds announced earlier that they plan to extend the protective netting at Great American Ball Park in time for Opening Day next season. You can add the Padres and Mariners to what will surely be a growing list.

A young fan was struck in the face by a foul ball at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday, which gave new life to the netting debate. Some fans and media types think Major League Baseball is not doing enough to protect fans. While Major League Baseball has issued guidelines for protective netting, it is ultimately up to the teams to decide just how much netting to use.

Zach Britton receives stem cell injection, likely done for the season

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Orioles closer Zach Britton is likely done for the remainder of the 2017 season after receiving a stem cell injection in his left knee, Peter Schmuck and Jon Meoli of the Baltimore Sun report. Britton has been battling knee problems for most of the season.

The Orioles are still technically in the AL Wild Card race, entering play Thursday 5.5 games behind the Twins for the second Wild Card slot. With only nine games remaining, however, the 73-80 Orioles are likely being realistic about their chances and not taking any unnecessary risks with Britton.

Britton, 29, put up a 2.89 ERA with 15 saves and a 29/18 K/BB ratio in 37 1/3 innings this season. He will be eligible for arbitration for the fourth and final time this offseason.