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August 30, 2016

Joseph will get more playing time in September, but what about others?

The Phillies have yet to announce what their intentions are for September call-ups, although manager Pete Mackanin has hinted enough at certain things that you can make an educated guess.

Pitchers, particularly relievers, will be on the way at the end of this week and throughout the next few weeks as the coaching staff eases the burden on its current bullpen. And with both Triple-A Lehigh Valley and Double-A Reading likely headed for the postseason, most position players will not be promoted any time soon– and that’s even if they're even worthy for those promotions.

Outfielder Nick Williams, for example, has been out of the lineup at Triple-A Lehigh Valley for the last three games. His overall numbers are pretty pedestrian (.265/.294/.434) and his last 20 games have been downright bad (.165/.185/.278 with 31 strikeouts and one walk in 81 plate appearances).

With that said, the players that are on the major league roster are expected to continue to get opportunities in September, some more than others. Tommy Joseph falls into the category of getting more playing time in the season’s final month.

Joseph was not in the Phillies lineup on Tuesday night against Washington Nationals right-hander Max Scherzer, but Mackanin said prior to the game that Joseph will play more regularly, against right-handed and left-handing pitching, for the remainder of the season.

“I think it makes sense to see Joseph as much as possible,” Mackanin said, adding that it was his decision, and not an edict from management. “I don’t want to happen to him to happen to (Darin) Ruf, where he didn’t have opportunities to get him at-bats.”

Joseph, the 25-year-old former top prospect who had his progress derailed by injuries (mainly concussions) since being acquired four years ago in the Hunter Pence trade, arrived from Triple-A in mid-May. Less than a month later, Mackanin announced that Joseph would be unseating Ryan Howard as the team’s everyday first baseman.

Joseph started over Howard in 24 of the 30 games the Phillies played from May 22 to June 22. But, slowly, Howard, mired in a two-month-long slump to begin the season, began to find his swing and work his way back into more regular playing time.

On Tuesday night, Howard will make his 12th start in the Phillies' last 21 games. But Mackanin said that run will be coming to an end soon, perhaps beginning with Wednesday when Washington sends left-hander Gio Gonzalez to the mound.

Joseph is hitting .247/.324/.474 in 33 games (23 starts) since the All-Star break, with six home runs, nine walks, and 22 strikeouts in 111 plate appearances. Overall, Joseph is batting .252/.297/.500 in 273 plate appearances over 79 games.

Among major league rookies with at least 200 plate appearances, only Trevor Story (27) and Corey Seager (23) have more home runs than Joseph (17). His 17 home runs are the fourth most by a Phillies rookie since 1990, behind Howard (22 in 2005), Scott Rolen (21 in 1997), and Pat Burrell (18 in 2000). Joseph’s .500 slugging percentage ranks sixth among the 23 MLB rookies with at least 200 plate appearances.

Mackanin was asked if he believes Joseph can be an everyday first baseman in the big leagues.

“I think he’s got a good approach,” Mackanin said. “He’s got some deficiencies. He’s hitting .250 or .240-something – the league has started to pitch to some weaknesses and .250 is not what we’re looking for. But it’s his first year. He’s got power. He hit a combined 30 home runs (actually, it’s 23) in Triple-A and the big leagues. We have to continue to look at him. Nothing is set in stone for anybody. You know, that goes for (Aaron) Altherr, that goes for anybody.”

Altherr has been playing regularly since he was activated after a four-month stay on the DL following wrist surgery. His big league development was derailed by injury in 2016.

But then there’s the interesting case of the other corner outfield spot, the one that Nick Williams may or may not be ready for … and the one where journeyman Jimmy Paredes was in the lineup for the fourth consecutive game on Tuesday. As Mackanin said himself on Tuesday, Paredes is “an extra player” and “not an everyday player right now here for us.”

So in the same vein as giving Joseph a longer look in September, why not let Rule 5 pick Tyler Goeddel play more regularly in the next month?

Goeddel, 23, is hitting .192/.251/.298 in 85 games this season, so, sure, he hasn’t played himself into a more regular role. But he also hasn’t played enough lately to put himself on the radar to play more.

After hitting .297/.350/.500 in a 22 game stretch (all starts) between May 5 and June 1, Goeddel has started just 21 of the 78 games the Phillies have played since.

“I’ve seen enough of Goeddel to know – we’ve kept him (on the roster) this long and we’re going to keep him (as a Rule 5 pick) and we’ll see where we go next year wth him,” Mackanin said. “I don’t see a need to play him, especially after he hasn’t played so much. What’s the point?”

The point is Paredes isn’t likely to be in the organization in 2017 and Goeddel is, even if it’s in Triple-A. To use Mackanin’s own words (regarding Joseph’s situation): you shouldn’t “want to happen to him to happen to (Darin) Ruf, where he didn’t have opportunities to get him at-bats.”

Unless you don’t think sitting around a lot and not getting regular at-bats will impede Goeddel’s development.

Follow Ryan on Twitter: @ryanlawrence21