When last we saw Maikel Franco in an official game, the Phillies rookie had been laid out on the ground at Chase Field in Arizona, writhing in pain after being hit on the wrist by a pitch from Diamondbacks righthander Jeremy Hellickson.
The injury happened in the first inning of a game on August 11th, one that the Phils would lose by a 13-1 score. The loss came just a day after being drubbed 13-3 by the host DBacks.
“The plan is to try to get him back into games at some point before the end of the season.” ~ interim Phillies GM Scott Proefrock
It would turn out that his wrist was fractured, and he was finally placed on the Disabled List a week after being hit. Most fans thought that with the combination of a fracture diagnosis and a lost season, that was the end of Franco’s rookie campaign.
To that point, Franco was enjoying a solid first full season in red pinstripes. He was hitting for a .277/.340/.490 slash line, with 13 homers, 48 RBI, and 43 runs scored in 326 plate appearances across 77 games.
As for the team, the two blowout losses in the Arizona desert would put the brakes on a Phillies hot streak that had seen the club win 16 of its previous 21 games following the MLB All-Star break.
The Phillies have gone 11-22 since losing their 3rd baseman, just a .333 winning percentage, well below the already poor .398 mark they had when Franco went down.
Having him out of the lineup has certainly contributed to the two games difference between the Phillies, who sit at the bottom of the overall MLB standings, and the Atlanta Braves, who they are facing this weekend.
But now comes word that Franco may, in fact, be able to return to the team before this 2015 season comes to an end.
As reported by MLB.com’s Ryan Lawrence, Phillies interim GM Scott Proefrock stated: “The plan is to try to get him back into games at some point before the end of the season.“
Franco himself is working hard towards just that goal, now down in Florida for workouts that he hopes will lead to an activation by possibly next weekend, certainly by the final 6-game homestand at the beginning of October.
Of course, there are hurdles to any potential return. First is the injury itself. The Phillies would certainly take no unnecessary chances with such a big part of their future.
So doctors would certainly have to clear him for a return to baseball activity. However, he may still then have to put up with a little discomfort in the early stages of his workouts.
With the return to actually facing pitchers comes the next hurdle, getting his timing back. Franco has been out of action for over a month already, and his targeted return would mean that he had missed a full six weeks of play at the MLB level.
Still, assuming that he is fully healed and can do no further damage by returning, and assuming he can regain some measure of timing, there is no reason to deny him that opportunity.
Even if he only gets to play the final half-dozen games in front of the home fans at Citizens Bank Park, both he and the organization will feel much better knowing that he is fully ready for 2016.
It is certainly far from a sure thing that we will see Maikel Franco back in a Phillies uniform and in the lineup again this season. But it is also no longer a sure thing that his season is over.