At least that’s the way it appears after the Phillies announced that catcher Sal Fasano had been designated for assignment prior to Saturday’s game against the Atlanta Braves at the Bank.
Though popular with a certain segment of the fan base and the media, Fasano’s batting average was .243 with four homers and 10 RBIs in 50 games. Though his strong arm was an asset when runners reached base, Fasano didn’t seem to be the answer for the Phillies when starting catcher Mike Lieberthal had an extended stay on the disabled list.
The Phillies now have 10 days to dispose of Fasano’s contract. If he is not claimed by another team or traded during that period, Fasano can be sent to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre or opt to become a free agent.
“I’m not very pleased with it, but it’s a part of the game that you don’t understand and you don’t know if you’ll ever understand,” Fasano said. “Me coming off the DL really forced their hand. They basically said they needed to make a move, and they can’t justify getting rid of anybody else, which I can understand. Catching-wise, you keep the guys that you had, but I was under the impression that we were going to keep three catchers.”
Said assistant GM Ruben Amaro Jr.: “We decided to stay with (Mike) Lieberthal and Coste as our catchers. We felt like they were doing a very good job in that role. Unfortunately for Sal, while he worked hard and was very professional for us, he got caught up in a numbers game. He did a pretty good job, but there are certain difficult decisions you have to make when these types of situations occur.”
Coste, on the other hand, has performed pretty well for the Phillies since his call up from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. With a pair of homers and 12 RBIs to go with his .333 batting average in 20 games, the 33-year-old rookie has turned himself into a viable backup catcher. Plus, Coste can play both corner infield positions and probably the outfield if he can dig up the correct glove.
Nevertheless, Coste looks at the decision as yet another motivator in his quest to become a big-league mainstay. That’s especially the case with Fasano having spent parts of eight seasons in the Majors.
“Seeing a situation like that is motivation to work harder,” Coste said.
That’s definitely the case since Fasano was set to be activated from the disabled list on Saturday after spending time in the minors on a rehab assignment. Coste figured there was a good chance that he was going to be cast aside when Fasano was eligible to return despite his superior offensive numbers.
For instance, Coste has as many RBIs this month in limited action as cleanup hitter Pat Burrell. Both players have driven in 10 runs.
Still, Coste believed that he was a good option for the Phillies and manager Charlie Manuel because he can play other positions as well as catcher. Even though he started his big-league career on a 0-for-13 skid, Coste knew he gave Manuel some options.
“I wasn’t nervous [about being sent down to the minors] because I was still a third catcher and I gave them some flexibility,” Coste reasoned. “Even though I wasn’t producing I knew that I was providing flexibility just by sitting on the bench.”
But now that he is producing by going 18-for-41 (.439) after that initial 0-for-13, including a pair of homers in his last two games, Coste knows that the big-league experience on his resume will help him when he attempts to make a club next spring training. Even after a strong spring like he had by hitting .463 for the Phillies in March.
“I could have hit .700 in spring training, but it’s still just spring training,” Coste said. “Now I have some experience as a backup. That should help me.”
Or at least get him out of having to play winter ball this year.