It is time once again for a Phillies 97.3 ESPN Monday Mailbag.  We take your questions every Monday and then we talk about them during the Sports Bash with Mike Gill on Tuesday afternoons at 2:30 p.m.   If you are not in South Jersey, you can listen online at 973espn.com.

Why did Cody Asche get sent to the minors instead of Jimmy Paredes?
~Ty

When the Phillies sent left fielder Cody Asche to Triple-A Lehigh Valley to pave the way for the return of Peter Bourjos, it raised some eyebrows indeed.  Comparing the numbers of Asche and Jimmy Paredes, the offensive numbers and defense was not all that different.  However, the reason the Phillies went for one over the other may have been pretty practical.

First, Asche is a left-handed hitter, while Paredes bats as a switch hitter.  In recent days, Phillies manager Pete Mackanin has put Paredes and Odubel Herrera in almost a platoon, playing Herrera on the days the team faces right-handed pitchers, and sliding Aaron Altherr to center and playing Paredes in right field when the Phillies face a left-handed hitter.  That same model does not work with a left-handed Asche.

Paredes did get a chance to appear as a lefty against Rockies starter Tyler Chatwood Sunday and had a pretty big day.  That start would have normally gone to Asche.  But, looking long-term, Asche may have a better chance to stick with the team.

Paredes occupies a 40-man roster spot and is out of minor league options.  This was one reason he was retained over Asche.  Bourjos could be moved by month's end, and if he does, Asche could come right back to the Phillies.  Paredes, if taken off the 25-man roster, would have to be designated for assignment and another team could claim him.  So, Paredes is a quick fix should Bourjos be moved.

Long-term, Asche could be a better fit if he becomes a versatile utility player.  When the Phillies sent him to Triple-A, Mackanin said that Asche would finally get time at third base and first base, something he was unable to do in Spring Training due to his oblique injury.  However, in three games thus far, Asche has played left field twice and served as designated hitter once.  If Asche can fill a Greg Dobbs-type role, playing both corner infield and corner outfield positions, he could be a useful piece.

Paredes came with experience at third base, second base, and both outfield corners.  The Phillies seem to be afraid to use him in the infield.  Despite the occasional home run, Paredes needs to hit better for a spot on the Phillies 25-man and 40-man roster.  As we have said before, 40-man roster spots are hard to come by.  Paredes could end up being designated once rosters expand and the Phillies are adding more players.   If the Phillies make a move while many teams are adding players to their 40-man rosters, Paredes could slip through.

With the injury, does it hurt J.P. Crawford's chances of a call-up?
~Justin

Unfortunately for the IronPigs and the Phillies system, shortstop J.P. Crawford has missed just about a week's worth of games with an oblique injury.   While the IronPigs have the International League wild card lead right now, four and a half games ahead of Minnesota Twins affiliate the Rochester Red Wings, the IronPigs have fallen the same four and a half games behind New York Yankees affiliate Scranton-Willkes Barre Rail Riders.  The IronPigs need Crawford for their playoff push, and the Phillies might have liked to see him.

However, this injury could make things unlikely.  As we have discussed with oblique injuries in the past, most recently with Cody Asche, the main cure for the injury is rest.  When a player tries to return too soon - like Asche did this Spring - the strain could end up exacerbated and the player miss more time.

With the Phillies needing plenty of 40-man roster spots this upcoming season, the Phillies may wait until Spring Training with Crawford.  Names such as Roman Quinn have been mentioned as potential call-ups in recent weeks, and the Phillies could easily do so because Quinn already occupies a spot on the 40-man roster.  Crawford would not be eligible for the Rule 5 draft if the Phillies keep him off of the roster.  There are, however, about seven prospects who need to be added before the offseason for the Phillies to protect them.

Some big names need to be added to protect them:  Nick Williams, Dylan Cozens, Andrew Knapp, Ben Lively, Ricardo Pinto, Nick Pivetta, Jesmuel Valentin, and Mark Appel.  There are several others that the Phillies could see be passed over.  But a catcher like Logan Moore could be taken as a Rule 5 pick if left unprotected.  The Philadelphia Inquirer's Matt Gelb did a nice breakdown of all the names that would need to be protected, which is worth checking out.

Combine this roster crunch and the oblique injury, Crawford seems better off sitting home.

With Ryan Howard's recent play, could we finally see the day that he is traded?
~Michael

Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard has certainly gotten the attention of baseball once again. After a slight tweak with his swing around the All-Star break, Howard has gone from a write-off to a very productive hitter.   The numbers certainly show that Howard has been a very productive player.  Since the All-Star break, Howard is batting .367 with five home runs, 13 runs batted in, and an OPS of 1.147.

Those numbers could mean the end of Ryan Howard in a Phillies uniform.

In the past, Howard's contract situation was so complicated that the acquiring team would have not only work out the Phillies paying for the contract that year, but a trade for Howard required a long-term commitment.   In the final year of his five-year, $125 million contract extension that began in the 2011 season, any team that would acquire Howard would only need him for the rest of the season.  Clearing waivers will be easy for Howard, given the dollar amount, but the Phillies will pay most of it.  That means he could help a team looking for a left-handed hitter. Those teams could be hard to find, but a fit may arise.

The Texas Rangers lost Prince Fielder for the remainder of his career this week.  They also lost left-handed outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, who was serving as the team's designated hitter.  The Rangers will have to bump someone to the top of the order who may have batted lower in the order, and Howard could help them there.   The Tigers lost Miguel Cabrera to a biceps strain and might need some help, given that Jarrod Saltalamacchia ended up playing first base after Cabrera's injury.   The Houston Astros have not gotten much out of rookie A.J. Reed just yet, while Jonathan Singleton has been a total bust.

Should the Phillies pay Howard's salary and buy out his contract, I think a deal could be done.  We are at the point toward the end of the season where the nagging injuries will have teams looking for help, even if it is marginal.  Howard could be added to any of these three contenders and make a difference.   If he does, I think Phillies fans will be very happy for him.  I think they have come to really appreciate Howard and wish him well.