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March 18, 2017

Why wasn't Maikel Franco wearing the sunglasses on top of his hat?

CLEARWATER, Fla. – The third inning of Saturday’s game at Spectrum Field in Clearwater, Fla., had everything.

Basketball player-sized pitchers beating out routine ground balls to Gold Glove-caliber shortstops, non-roster catchers trying to recreate the Bob Boone-Pete Rose foul ball moment all by themselves, near misses on inside-the-park-home runs from Malvern Prep grads, infielders with sunglasses on their hats rather than over their eyeballs.

The Pirates scored five times in the third inning of a game they won 13-8 (and a game that felt more like the Phillies had lost 22-2).

“That wasn't fun,” manager Pete Mackanin said. “You always have one or two of those games in the spring and that was one of them. … We’ll put it behind us.”

Mackanin said he would rather “zero-in” on things like Aaron Altherr’s hot bat or fellow outfielder Roman Quinn’s hustle on a pop-fly out. But, really, it was hard to ignore the aforementioned part about an infielder failing to use his sunglasses as sunglasses are intended to be used.

After Pirates infielder and West Chester native Phil Gosselin (the Malvern Prep grad) flirted with an inside-the-park home run and settled for a two-run triple, scoring top Pittsburgh pitching prospect Tyler Glasnow, who began the inning by beating out a single on a ball to Freddy Galvis, Maikel Franco made his second error in as many innings.

With one one, one out, and two in, John Jaso hit a shallow pop-up to Franco and the Phillies’ third baseman simply lost the ball in the sun. Gosselin scored on the embarrassing play.

“Man, it’s tough,” Franco said following the game, after getting ragged on for not wearing his sunglasses by teammate Andres Blanco. “There’s nothing to say about it.”

“That’s going to be a fine, a $1 fine for him, for the whole team,” said Mackanin, referring to the system he put in place last spring.

So what’s the deal with sunglasses on top of your hat, Mackanin was asked, is it a fashion thing?

“I don’t get it either,” the manager said. “You know, he lost the ball in the sun, we have to fine him a dollar.”

While it’a difficult to use the phrase “made up for it” when you’re talking about a game the Phillies once trailed 11-1, Franco did hit a grand slam in the seventh inning on Saturday.

“That’s what I want to do, just try to go out there,” Franco said. “I know something happened, but you try to forget everything, go out there, try to see the ball really good, and be prepared for the season.”

But, wait a second, back to why the sunglasses weren’t on your face on a sun-splashed, picture perfect day in Clearwater.

“I wasn’t even thinking about it,” Franco admitted. “So when it happened, I put my glasses on after that.”

That’s not entirely accurate.

Franco’s sunglasses remained on top of his hat for the duration of a third inning that at least felt like it was a half hour long. To be fair, fellow infielder Cesar Hernandez also had his sunglasses on top of his hat, too. (Freddy Galvis was the only infielder actually wearing his sunglasses on his face in the second inning).

After taking warmups prior to the fourth inning, and before Jeremy Hellickson delivered a pitch, Franco looked skyward and decided to take his sunglasses from atop his hat and put them onto his eyes, where they remained for the duration of the game when he played in the field.

According to metrics (like defensive runs saved and defensive runs above average), Franco’s defense was in the middle of the pack among big league third baseman last season. He knows he has to be more consistent.

“Here in the National League you have to play really good defense because we don’t have a (designated hitter),” he said. “So you have to improve every single day. Sometimes you have good days and sometimes you have bad days. You just have to keep working hard, keep pushing yourself. Tomorrow is a new day. So I’m just going to try to continue to improve.”

Follow Ryan on Twitter: @ryanlawrence21