CHICAGO -- Phillies interim manager Ryne Sandberg is pleased with the recent play of many of the club's younger players, and said it's not only nice to see them playing well, but also necessary.
"It's necessary because the strength of an organization is the Minor League players that come up," Sandberg said. "You depend on them and you need them."
The current Phillies roster is composed heavily of younger players. Ten of the 25 players on the roster have played at Triple-A Lehigh Valley at some point this season, including seven pitchers (Justin De Fratus, Jake Diekman, Cesar Jimenez, Ethan Martin, Zach Miner, J.C. Ramirez, and B.J. Rosenberg ), two infielders (Cody Asche and Pete Orr ), and one outfielder (Darin Ruf ).
Jimenez and Rosenberg pitched scoreless innings in Saturday's 4-3 loss to the Cubs, but Miner allowed Starlin Castro's go-ahead home run and lost his first game of the season.
One of the young players that has been making a statement recently is Ruf, who has hit nine homers in August. Another is Asche, who has been sidelined the past two games with a mild right hamstring strain, but performing well of late, hitting .272 with two home runs and 14 RBIs this month entering Saturday.
And in the bullpen, which has been much improved recently, left-hander Diekman and right-hander Rosenberg have been dominant. Diekman has tossed nine scoreless innings of relief in his last nine appearances, giving up five hits and one walk while striking out 14. Since being recalled from Lehigh Valley on Aug. 16, Rosenberg has made eight consecutive scoreless appearances, holding opposing hitters to a .115 batting average (3-for-26).
"We've got Darin Ruf, we've got Cody Asche making a statement at third base for the future, we have De Fratus, Diekman, and Rosenberg, young guys in the bullpen," Sandberg said. "So we've got a little bit of a youth movement going on here, and we're using these games to show what they can do. So it's a mixture of youth now and some veteran guys, [and] that is a good combination. As the team goes forward, those guys will be counted on."
De Fratus -- who had a rough outing on Thursday against the Mets, in which he yielded four runs, though he posted a 1.61 ERA in 12 prior August appearances -- said he and other young players getting playing time are gaining invaluable experience.
"It means a lot moving into next year," De Fratus said. "It does mean a lot for us to get this experience and to go to Spring Training with a familiar feeling of what it takes to perform in the big leagues and to learn from the failures and to learn from the successes."
De Fratus added that many of the younger players came up through the Minor Leagues together and have a bond that will serve them well in the big leagues over the years to come.
"A lot of these guys, we came up together and a lot of us have formed not just a teammate relationship, but a lot of us are good friends who keep in touch a lot throughout the year and through the offseason," he said. "Outside of it being a teammate-to-teammate thing, you like to see your friends succeed. I think that's what it's become, and I think that's something that's going to carry us to success in the future."
Phillies deal McDonald for Minor Leaguer
CHICAGO -- The Phillies announced after Saturday's 4-3 loss to the Cubs that infielder John McDonald has been traded to the Red Sox in exchange for right-handed pitcher Nefi Ogando.
McDonald, who has played for the Pirates, Indians, and Phillies this season, hit .174 (4-for-23) in 21 games for Philadelphia and .098 (6-for-61) in 45 games overall in 2013.
"It's exciting to go into a pennant race," said McDonald, who is a New England native. "To get to go and play for [the Red Sox], I think everyone in baseball has followed how well they've played this year."
Ogando, a 24-year-old relief pitcher who has been with Class A Advanced Salem in the Boston system, was 2-3 with a 4.09 ERA in 33 appearances (55 innings) this season.
Ruf keeping things simple during hot streak
CHICAGO -- Outfielder Darin Ruf has had quite a month of August, hitting nine home runs in 29 games to become the first Phillies rookie to hit at least nine in a month since Ryan Howard hit 10 in September 2005.
Ruf is hitting .254 with 11 home runs and 20 RBIs in 48 games this season after going 0-for-2 with two walks in Saturday's 4-3 loss to the Cubs.
"I've been trying to keep things simple at the plate, just get a pitch I can drive," Ruf said. "I've been fortunate to not miss some of those pitches. I'm glad some of [the home runs] came in some pretty big situations to help the team out."
Phillies interim manager Ryne Sandberg said he's been impressed not only with Ruf's plate appearances but also with his ability to quickly learn how to play right field when the team needed him to start there.
"With Darin, that's been his trend even in the Minor Leagues," Sandberg said of his hot month. "He likes to get hot in August and September, and he's continuing to do that. Right field is very new to him. He had no experience when he came here, and there was a need for him to play right field and he went right out there and did a heck of a job. For me right now he's a three-position guy, a right-handed power bat, and he's shown a lot of good stuff."
"It's a great opportunity to not only help myself and help the team this year, but hopefully put everyone in a position where we can have a lot of success next year," Ruf said. "I'm just trying to learn as much as I can while I'm here -- learn from playing, learn from my teammates and the coaching staff. I've really had a positive experience so far and I'm looking forward to finishing the season strong."
Ruf was in left field on Saturday and made a fielding error in the third inning that led to a run.
• Asche was not in the lineup for Saturday's game against the Cubs. But Sandberg said the rookie would be able to play if needed, but he did not enter.
"Cody's fine to come off the bench," Sandberg said. "[The Cubs] just happen to have a lefty [starting] today [Chris Rusin], so I thought I'd give him one more day. But he's good to go."
• Outfielder Domonic Brown, who had to leave Friday's game in the sixth inning due to soreness in his right Achilles, was also not in the lineup for Saturday's contest. Sandberg said that, like Asche, Brown was available off the bench. But unlike Asche, Brown did play -- striking out as a pinch-hitter in the ninth.
"Domonic is day to day," Sandberg said. "He'll be limited today as far as his usage, but he'll be available in some capacity for the game."
• According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Phillies' 6-5 win over the Cubs on Friday was only the fourth time in the 98 seasons that the Phillies have played at Wrigley Field that they won after Chicago had scored the first five runs of the game.
The last time that happened was in 1998, when the Cubs scored five runs in the first inning against Curt Schilling.