TORONTO -- It seems Ryne Sandberg would rather say anything than tip his hand, even when the answer is obvious.
It seemed clear Cody Asche would start Wednesday against Blue Jays left-hander Mark Buehrle at Rogers Centre, but when asked Tuesday the Phillies' manager said only that he would consider it. But Sandberg surprised nobody when he penciled Asche's name into the starting lineup for just the third time this season against a left-handed pitcher, and for the first time against a lefty since April 4.
Asche, who started the season slowly, is hitting .417 (10-for-24) with three doubles, two home runs and eight RBIs since a ninth-inning single April 24 at Dodger Stadium. His .767 OPS is suddenly better than that of everyday players like Jimmy Rollins (.758), Ryan Howard (.746), Ben Revere (.604) and Domonic Brown (.579). He has earned his chance against lefties.
Sandberg said this was not a one-time shot, either, and that he expected Asche to play more regularly against left-handed pitchers.
"I do, I do," he said. "He's put together four, five games in a row now with good at-bats. Off a left-handed pitcher, as a left-handed hitter, if you're somewhat focused and willing to use left-center field, you can have some success. And that's the stroke that he has right now. Just stringing some at-bats for him. I think yesterday goes a long way with that; a game like that can really get him going in a lot of ways."
Asche went 4-for-4 with a grand slam in Tuesday night's 6-5 loss to the Blue Jays.
Defensive shift is work in progress for Phils
TORONTO -- The Phillies used a defensive shift against a few Blue Jays hitters Monday and Tuesday at Citizens Bank Park, but twice Tuesday it hurt them.
A ball rolled between Freddy Galvis and Chase Utley on the left side of the infield in the fourth inning. Galvis should have called for the ball but did not.
In the 10th inning, the Phillies again shifted to the left side of the infield, but Jose Bautista hit a ground ball through the second baseman's spot. It advanced runners to first and third with no outs.
"That's part of the adjusting and seeing how things go," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said Wednesday at Rogers Centre. "Either matching the pitching … or have a guy shaded differently in a situation like that, there needs to be adjustments. Now the question is how much to give on the opposite side of the diamond with nobody on? Whether we're giving him a single that way, but once again we're setting up the defense to where we think they're going to hit the ball."
The Phillies rarely, if ever, shifted their infield defense in the past, but Sandberg likes the advantages it could bring. But he acknowledges strategy could change in certain situations to avoid a repeat of what happened in the 10th inning Tuesday.
"Maybe with runners on base, yes," he said. "There's holes out there. We put our defense where we think they're going to hit it. You can't have someone everywhere, but there are also some adjustments there we can make as we go along."
After two absences, Rollins starts at DH
TORONTO -- Jimmy Rollins returned to the starting lineup Wednesday, but as a designated hitter.
Rollins did not start the previous two games after tweaking his right groin Sunday against the Nationals at Citizens Bank Park. It is unclear if Rollins will be back on the field defensively for Thursday's series finale.
"I'm encouraged with him DH-ing tonight," manager Ryne Sandberg said. "That's a step in the right direction. He's feeling a lot better today than yesterday, so that fact that he's in the lineup as a hitter is a step in the right direction, of him moving along.
"What he wanted to do was take a pregame yesterday on defense. So he'll do a step above that pregame on the defensive side [Wednesday], go a little bit more side to side."
• Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard did not start against Buehrle. John Mayberry Jr. started at first base instead. "Just get him off his feet a bit," Sandberg said of Howard. "He's had a string of games now. Just to get a right-handed bat against the left-hander."
Howard hit .171 (7-for-41) with two doubles, one home run, four RBIs and 13 strikeouts in his past 10 games.
• First baseman/outfielder Darin Ruf begins a rehab assignment Thursday with Class A Clearwater. He has been on the DL since the season started with a strained left oblique.
• Asked if right fielder Marlon Byrd could have called off center fielder Ben Revere on a fly ball in the 10th inning Tuesday, Sandberg said corner outfielders do have that option. It was asked because Revere does not have a good arm and had no chance to throw out the winning run at the plate in a 6-5 loss.
"That's an option if he was getting over there," Sandberg said. "There are ideal situations for a stronger-armed guy to take one in the gap that's coming in, take charge. It seemed to me like Byrdie was still trying to get over there. But those can be done. With that depth, from my angle, I'm not sure if it made any difference. But you want the better arm to give it a shot."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.