Ryne Sandberg said he'd probably talk to the Phillies as a group before everyone goes his own way on Sunday when the season comes to an end.

But he might pull more than a couple players aside too and give them a personal message. A guy like rookie third baseman Cody Asche for example.

"You've shown you can play here" Sandberg said he'd tell Asche. "You've shown you can play at this level. Come in [next spring] and be ready to take the job."

For the second straight night Asche was out of the starting lineup when the Phillies wrapped up a three-game series against the Miami Marlins last night. With the Marlins starting lefthander Brad Hand Sandberg opted for the switch-hitting Freddy Galvis in place of the lefthanded-hitting Asche.

Asche was also just 1-for-15 in his last six games a slump not unlike the one he endured when he first arrived in the big leagues 2 months ago. Asche went 1-for-17 in his first six games.

But in between the two skids Asche hit .299 with an .869 OPS .364 OBP 13 extra-base hits including five home runs while knocking in 20 runs in 33 games. Asche has also showed plus-range in the field which all led to Sandberg naming him the favorite for the 2014 Opening Day third-base assignment.

"[He's] the leader for me" Sandberg said. "He's the leading candidate right now. He's proven he can play third base if in fact that's the spot that's there. He's proven defensively he can play third base. And I think his bat has played. He's shown a good steady bat.

"I think down the stretch it's turned into a little bit of a long season for him possibly. I understand that. But the work ethic and the quality swing for a young guy like that is pretty good."

Like many minor leaguer turned major leaguer Asche could be hitting the proverbial wall. Between Triple A Lehigh Valley and the Phillies Asche has played in 151 games this year; he played in 130 games last year his first as a pro player after being drafted in the fourth round of the 2011 draft.

But Asche likely will return to the starting lineup when the Phillies arrive in Atlanta: The Braves are starting a pair of righthanders (David Hale and Kris Medlen) in the first two games of a four-game series.