PHILADELPHIA - Being a bench player is never easy.
The inconsistent playing time, the tough late-game match-ups against hard-throwing relievers, the lack of live pitching to build timing before at-bats - it's all part of the gig, and it all makes the gig difficult.
Add in the frustration that can build (and sometimes fester) when you don't succeed in your very limited opportunities, and it becomes mentally taxing as well.
Imagine only having maybe three chances to come through for your team in an entire week and going 0-for-3. An 0-for-3 for an everyday player is no big deal. You show up the next day and feel confident you'll come through in your next opportunity. An 0-for-3 spread out over a week when those individual at-bats are your only chance to impact a game that day can mentally be tough to take.
It's all why being a bench player is such a tough job. But it also can make the job rewarding when you're able to come through.
Take Nationals utility man Kevin Frandsen, for example. After a 2-for-3 night last night, Frandsen has now gone 10-for-16 with a double, a walk and two RBIs over his last nine games.
He's boosted his season average 22 points over this 10-day span and has delivered a few big knocks in key situations.
In this 10-day window, Frandsen has been in the starting lineup three times (getting starts in left field, third base and first base), allowing him to get multiple plate appearances in a night. And those opportunities are certainly valued by bench players, given how infrequently at-bats can come at times.
"It's helped a lot," Frandsen said last night. "(Hitting coach Rick Schu) has helped me so much in staying locked in and finding a set-up that's real simple. In July, we didn't have many at-bats, the guys on the bench, for good reason. We finally had the guys back (healthy). It's continued to be a process. It's definitely for myself not trying to do much. If I do too much, then you're gonna get bad results.
"More playing time helps out with anyone. That's just the nature of the beast in this game. We go forward, hopefully there's more and more opportunities to help this team win. If not, I know my role and I love it coming off the bench and hopefully coming up with the big hit."