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March 07, 2017

Stassi continues to slay spring pitching, solidify status as favorite for Phillies bench job

LAKELAND, Fla. – If you are a casual Phillies fan, there’s a decent chance you had never heard of Brock Stassi before this spring, even though he was in major league camp with the team last year, too.

Stassi is 27. He played at Triple-A last season. He’s a former 33rd round pick (in 2011) and has never had his name pop onto top prospect lists like just about all of his former and current teammates like J.P. Crawford, Nick Williams, and Roman Quinn.

Brock Stassi is making people know who he is this spring. Stassi, bidding for a job on the Phillies Opening Day bench, ripped a grand slam on Tuesday afternoon to help fuel the Phillies to an 11-6 win over the Detroit Tigers.

“He’s doing everything right, let’s put it that way,” manager Pete Mackanin said.

When you have a 1.819 OPS through eight games, a number that would put him atop every hitter in baseball heading into Tuesday’s games, you’re hardly doing anything wrong.

Sure, it’s a very small sample size. And yes, as Jimmy Rollins once said, no one cares what you hit in March, only what you’re hitting come May.

Even Mackanin (and every manager before him) has cautioned about not getting overly excited about Spring Training statistics. Stassi gets that, but he also understands putting up numbers is a heck of a lot better than failing to produce when jobs are on the line.

“Guys always talk about saving it for the season, but for me, there are no guarantees," Stassi said. "It’s life or death for me out there right now. I’m just trying to stay positive and have quality at-bats day in and day out and keep things rolling."

Stassi got his afternoon started by working a leadoff walk off Justin Verlander in the second inning. He came around to score two batters later on a two-out single from Pedro Florimon.

Four innings later, Stassi, a left-handed hitter who plays first base and left field, was back in the box against Detroit left-hander Blaine Hardy with the bases full of Phillies.

“I knew he had to come with something because he threw me a couple of off-speed pitches early and I know he didn’t want to go 3-1 (in the count) with all the bases occupied,” said Stassi, who went 2-for-4 with three runs scored and a walk. “I was sitting on a fastball there and I got it.”

The grand slam was Stassi’s third home run of the spring. He’s tied with Maikel Franco for the team lead.

“He looks like he knows what he’s doing, like a professional hitter,” Mackanin said of Stassi, who is 9-for-16 with a double, 11 RBI, three walks and no strikeouts to go along with his trio of homers this spring. “He’s making a real good impression. We saw him last year, we know what he’s capable of doing. … You know, there’s competition. He’s competing and doing well. Hit the grand slam off a left-hander on top of it.”

Stassi will be back in Mackanin’s lineup on Wednesday in Lake Buena Vista against the Atlanta Braves, getting the start in left field. Stassi has worked sparingly in the outfield in six minor league seasons, but has been taking extra work every morning in Clearwater and says he feels comfortable having played there in high school.

But with a plus glove at first base and a left-handed bat that would complement Tommy Joseph perfectly, Stassi should have a job on the Phillies’ five-man bench next month if he can somehow continue to hit as he has in the first week-and-a-half of games this spring.

“Nah, nah – just taking it day by day,” Stassi said when asked if he has any superstitions he’s stuck to during his torrid hitting stretch. “Today is already over so I have to come out tomorrow and go back to work.”

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