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Phillies fill-in Frandsen standing tall as a regular

The SportsXchange

PHILADELPHIA -- Lost in the heroics and good fortune from Cliff Lee, the Phillies hard-luck left-hander who went a whole calendar year between wins at Citizens Bank Park before his seven sharp innings on Sunday, was the ongoing quiet yet productive performance of a veteran utility infielder who has taken the reins at third base for the Phillies in August.

Lee was only able to drive in the game's first run -- with a one-out double in the fifth inning -- because Kevin Frandsen led off with a single. The 30-year-old Frandsen, who played the season's first four months at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, went 2-for-4 as the Phillies collected their fourth straight win.

Although former All-Star third baseman Placido Polanco returned from a month-long stay on the disabled list on August 20, Frandsen has started four straight games at third and in five of the seven games since Polanco was activated.

Frandsen has hit safely in 20 of his 24 starts since summoned to the big leagues. He has nine multi-hit games in that span.

"He's going to get to play some," manager Charlie Manuel said following Sunday's win. "At the same time, I would like to see Polanco get well and be healthy. I would like to play Polanco some at third to see where he's at. Frandsen can bounce around the infield, too."

Manuel has no reason not to keep Frandsen's bat in the lineup and try him all over the infield, too. Frandsen spent most of the 2012 season playing second base at Triple-A. He played 32 games at shortstop for the San Francisco Giants between 2006 to 2009.

The oft-injured, soon-to-be-37-year old Polanco has a $5.5 million option for 2013 that will almost certainly not be picked up by the Phillies. Even if the team looks elsewhere to upgrade at a third base position where they could use a power bat, Frandsen should at the very least play himself into a position to return to the Phillies as a utility infielder next season.

As it stands, the only other viable candidates for that spot on the 40-man roster are Michael Martinez, a career .183 hitter who turns 30 next month, and 22-year-old rookie Freddy Galvis, who is recovering from a fracture of the vertebra in his back.

Prior to this season, Frandsen had played in just 78 major league games since suffering an Achilles injury in spring training in 2008. But he has hit enough -- while also playing reliable defense -- to put himself into the 2013 picture.

Overall, Frandsen is hitting .351 with a .402 on-base percentage in 26 games with the Phillies.

"People think it's a fluke, but look at what I've done in my minor-league career," Frandsen told the Gloucester County (N.J.) Times. Last week "I'm a .310 career hitter. This is the first time I've gotten a chance to play every day in the major leagues. I got the opportunity of a lifetime to play every day for 20 straight days and I feel like I helped the team win some games. That's all I'm here for."

Two weeks into his unexpected tenure as the Phillies regular third baseman, Frandsen said he isn't the type of player that wins fans or coaches over in one game or on one play.

"You're not going to fall in love with me one day," he said, "it's going to be something you appreciate over time."

But Frandsen had to eat those words after making the defensive play of the Phillies season last week, when he made a diving stab at third, with the bases loaded and no one, before firing a strike at home plate to nail the lead runner.

Whether it was that one play or the acquired comfort of stability, Frandsen has won over Philadelphia since his unlikely stint as the team's everyday third baseman.
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