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Phillies GM Matt Klentak doesn’t plan to demote Maikel Franco or Odubel Herrera

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The slumping Phillies get a reprieve on Thursday, but will enter Friday’s series opener against the Giants with a 17-34 record, worst in baseball. The team’s problems are manyfold, but two players whose struggles stick out are Maikel Franco and Odubel Herrera.

Franco, who hit 25 home runs last season, has mustered a paltry .216/.273/.352 batting line with six home runs and 28 RBI in 194 plate appearances this season.

Herrera, the Phillies’ lone representative in the All-Star Game last year, hit .286/.361/.420 with 42 extra-base hits and 25 stolen bases last season. So far this season, he’s batting a measly .218/.262/.326 with 15 extra-base hits and four stolen bases in 206 PA.

Both Franco and Herrera have options, so they could be sent down to Triple-A Lehigh Valley to figure things out. Franco, in particular, has reportedly been in jeopardy of a demotion. However, as CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury reports, GM Matt Klentak plans to let both players try to right their ships in the big leagues.

Klentak said of Franco, “We are committed to giving Maikel more time to get out of this. We believe in him. We have confidence that he will (break out). There are a lot of indicators, whether you’re looking at his exit velocities and launch angles — again, I don’t want to say he’s been a victim of bad luck by itself; it’s not the only thing, but there are reasons to believe he can get out this.”

The data doesn’t exactly paint a grim picture of Franco. Per FanGraphs, Franco is hitting a few more line drives than he did last year and is making harder contact overall as well.

As for Herrera, Klentak said, “I think he’s gotten himself into an offensive slump largely because he is not taking pitches as well as he has. When you see the productive Odubel Herrera — it’s when he’s taking close pitches, grinding out walks, pumping his fist and clapping his hands after a walk and pointing to the dugout. We haven’t seen that for the last month. We have a lot of reason to believe Odubel will come out of it. And the big thing is even when Odubel’s not hitting, he is impacting the game.”

Herrera’s walk rate has been nearly halved compared to last season, 9.6 to 5.3 percent. His strikeout rate has increased by 4.4 percent. He’s hitting more ground balls at the expense of line drives and he’s offering at significantly more pitches outside the strike zone — 34.1 percent last year, 44.5 percent this year.

Bruce Maxwell is the first MLB player to take a knee during the National Anthem

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Athletics’ rookie catcher Bruce Maxwell did not stand for the National Anthem on Saturday night. He’s the first MLB player to do so and, like other professional athletes before him, used the moment to send a message — not just to shed light on the lack of racial equality in the United States, but to specifically protest President Donald Trump’s suggestion that NFL owners fire any of their players who elect to protest the anthem by sitting or kneeling.

“Bruce’s father is a proud military lifer. Anyone who knows Bruce or his parents is well aware that the Maxwells’ love and appreciation for our country is indisputable,” Maxwell’s agent, Matt Sosnick, relayed to the San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser on Friday. He continued:

Bruce has made it clear that he is taking a stand about what he perceives as racial injustices in this country, and his personal disappointment with President Trump’s response to a number of professional athletes’ totally peaceful, non-violent protests.

Bruce has shared with both me and his teammates that his feelings have nothing to do with a lack of patriotism or a hatred of any man, but rather everything to do with equality for men, women and children regardless of race or religion.

While Maxwell didn’t make his own statement to the media, he took to Instagram earlier in the day to express his frustration against the recent opposition to the protests, criticizing the President for endorsing “division of man and rights.”

Despite Trump’s profanity-laced directive to NFL owners on Friday, however, it’s clear the Athletics don’t share his sentiments. “The Oakland A’s pride ourselves on being inclusive,” the team said in a statement released after Maxwell’s demonstration. “We respect and support all of our players’ constitutional rights and freedom of expression.”

Whatever the fallout, kudos to Maxwell for taking a stand. He may be the first to do so in this particular arena, but he likely won’t be the last.

Alex Wilson broke his leg on a 103-MPH comebacker

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This one is brutal. Tigers’ right-handed reliever Alex Wilson was diagnosed with a broken leg after taking a blistering 103.8-MPH line drive off of his right leg during Saturday’s game against the Twins. According to the Detroit News’ Chris McCosky, it’s a non-displaced fibular fracture, but will still warrant an extended recovery period and signal the end of Wilson’s season.

Wilson replaced Drew VerHagen to start the eighth inning and worked a full count against Joe Mauer. Mauer roped an 93.3-MPH fastball back up the middle, where it struck the pitcher on his right calf. While Mauer took first base, Wilson got to his feet and tried to toss a warm-up pitch, but was in too much pain to continue and had to be helped off the field.

Even in a season that isn’t going anywhere in particular, this isn’t how you want it to end. The Tigers have yet to announce a recovery timetable for the 30-year-old reliever, but he won’t return to the mound until 2018. He exited Saturday’s outing with a 4.35 ERA, 2.3 BB/9 and 6.3 SO/9 over 60 innings.

The Tigers currently trail the Twins 10-3 in the bottom of the ninth inning.