Rob Thomson says Alec Bohm’s production ‘can be sustainable’ batting cleanup

Philadelphia Phillies

Of all the positive developments for the Phillies during their historic 50-game start, put this right at the top of the list.

They found their cleanup hitter.

Alec Bohm batted in the cleanup spot on April 23 in Cincinnati and has stayed there for all but three of his last 25 games entering Wednesday night against the Texas Rangers at Citizens Bank Park. It’s a pivotal position in every batting order, but especially for the Phillies, who need their No. 4 hitter to protect Bryce Harper.

» READ MORE: Who should bat behind Bryce Harper? Again, it’s a key question for the Phillies.

Manager Rob Thomson settled on Bohm in the cleanup spot for several reasons. Among them: Bohm makes more consistent contact than fellow right-handed hitters J.T. Realmuto and Nick Castellanos.

But Bohm also excels with runners on base — especially when they are in scoring position and relative to his production with the bases empty. It has been a through line in his performance at the plate since he made his major-league debut in 2020.

Last year, Bohm hit .309/.355/.479 with runners on base, .344/.390/.470 when they were on second or third base, compared to .242/.302/.399 with nobody on. This season, he was off to a .402/.461/.678 start through Tuesday with runners on base and .412/.476/.706 with men in scoring position compared to .269/.320/.398 with bases empty.

Is it any wonder that Bohm was second in the majors with 44 RBIs — a 145-RBI pace — entering Wednesday night’s game?

Bohm said he doesn’t necessarily get pitched any differently when he bats behind Harper. If anything, though, he might simplify his approach at the plate or focus his attention differently.

“I think most any hitter will tell you they like hitting with guys on base, right?” Bohm said. “Where there’s nobody on base, there’s not really a task at hand, there’s not much that the game is telling you to do. That thought, that little devil on your shoulder of trying to take a guy deep, trying to hit a homer can kind of creep in those type of situations.

“The more often that there’s a task at hand and something to be done, where you’re more locked in on an approach, you’re just trying to see the ball, get a good pitch, and do what you do and not necessarily try to do anything special. You’re just playing the game at that point.”

» READ MORE: Homegrown Phillies Alec Bohm and Ranger Suárez don’t want to go anywhere. Here’s the extension case for each.

Whatever the case, it works for Bohm. Among hitters with at least 50 plate appearances with runners in scoring position, Bohm’s 1.182 OPS entering Wednesday night ranked fifth in the majors, trailing Harper (1.377), Kansas City’s Salvador Perez (1.373), Atlanta’s Marcell Ozuna (1.295), and Milwaukee’s William Contreras (1.232).

And while there figures to be at least a measure of regression, Bohm’s track record would suggest that he will continue to deliver on his opportunities to drive in runs.

“I think just because of his swing it can be sustainable, no doubt,” Thomson said. “He understands the strike zone, and he uses the field. He’s got a flat stroke, so that contributes to his ability to make contact. When guys are out there [on base], he puts the ball in play. When you put the ball in play, good things happen.

Trea bien

Trea Turner continued his rapid recovery from a strained left hamstring.

In addition to hitting indoors, Turner ran arcs — around the edge of the infield along the outfield grass, an exercise that typically precedes running the bases.

Turner will travel with the team Thursday night to Colorado and pick up the intensity of his running. Thomson said the star shortstop likely will go on a minor-league assignment before rejoining the Phillies’ lineup.

In Turner’s absence, Edmundo Sosa was 10-for-33 with two doubles, two triples, six walks, and a .439 on-base percentage entering Wednesday night.

» READ MORE: Do the Phillies have the best Big Three in MLB? How they stack up to other formidable starter trios.

Extra bases

Righty reliever Yunior Marte (shoulder) is ready to begin a minor-league assignment, according to Thomson, after throwing 17 pitches from the bullpen mound. The assignment can last for up to 30 days. The Phillies would then have to make a decision on Marte, who can be optioned to the minors but pitched well (2.70 ERA in 12 appearances) before getting injured. … The Phillies were 20-8 at Citizens Bank Park entering play Wednesday. It’s the fastest they’ve gotten to 20 wins at home since 1993, when they started 20-8 at Veterans Stadium. … Comedian Shane Gillis, a Mechanicsburg native and West Chester University graduate, threw the ceremonial first pitch to Harper. … Zack Wheeler (5-3, 2.52 ERA) is scheduled to start the 1:05 p.m. series finale Thursday against Rangers lefty Andrew Heaney (0-5, 4.43).

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