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Phillies debut new City Connect jerseys against Pirates, line up adjustments, Rojas benched second straight game

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CBS News Philadelphia Live

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Johan Rojas has turned a slight corner on his season, yet remained out of the Philadelphia Phillies lineup for the second consecutive game. Rob Thomson rolled out the same lineup before Friday's game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, which has Brandon Marsh in center field, Whit Merrifield in left field, and Rojas on the bench.

"I want to make sure we get [Brandon] Marsh and [Bryson] Stott at bats against lefties," Thomson said in the Phillies dugout before Friday's game. "I want to keep Whit in the fold. Let him get some rhythm. He's been playing a lot. Rojas has been playing a lot."

Rojas has played in 11 of the Phillies' 13 games to start the season, hitting .161 with an RBI and two runs. On the recent six-game road trip, Rojas hit .250 with a double, RBI, and a walk -- turning things around from a 1-for-22 (.045) start to the season.

Marsh hitting well has some part of Rojas getting a few days off. He went 1-for-3 on Thursday night with a home run and two RBI in Thursday's win over the Pirates and is hitting .429 over his last four games. Marsh ranks fifth in all of baseball with a 9.75 at-bat-to-home run ratio and is batting sixth for the second consecutive game as a result.

Against lefties, Marsh is hitting just .182 with a .413 OPS. Against righties, Marsh is at .393 with a 1.235 OPS. All four of Marsh's home runs have come against right-handed pitchers, but the Phillies are facing a left-handed starter in Bailey Falter Friday.

"We have to keep getting him reps (against lefties)," Thompson said. "Because I think he's going to keep getting hits against lefties at some point."

Merrifield is off to a slow start in the seven games he's played. He's hit .143 (3-for-21) with no home runs or RBI.

"I think he's grinding," Thompson said. "He has nothing to show for it yet, but I think he's grinding. He's working at bats. He's seeing a lot of pitches, so the hits will come."

Does the few days off bother Rojas and hurt his confidence? Thompson isn't seeing that from his young center fielder, also making note Rojas will be back in the lineup Saturday.

"He still has energy. He still comes out and does his work," Thompson said. "But I know, young guy coming up to the big leagues and trying to hold your own (and) not having much to show for it.

"It can wear on you. I think he's handling it really well." 

Injured pitchers

  • Orion Kerkering was back at Citizens Bank Park on Friday after a rehab appearance in Clearwater. Kerkering struck out the side in his inning of relief and was touching 99 mph on his fastball. Thompson said Kerkering would get a few days off before deciding on whether to activate him from the 15-day injured list. 
  • Taijuan Walker pitched four innings in his rehab start in Clearwater. He gave up two runs on two hits while striking out four and walking none. He threw 47 pitches and 32 were strikes.
  • Thompson said Walker threw a fifth inning on the side and is 1-to-2 rehab starts away before returning. The Phillies want him to get to 100 pitches in his rehab starts before activating Walker, which could be up to three more rehab appearances. Walker will pitch Tuesday for Lehigh Valley. 
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