Phillies' experiment with Rhys Hoskins in left field came together in a flash

Phillies' experiment with Rhys Hoskins in left field came together in a flash

Here's how quickly the Rhys Hoskins/outfield experiment came together:

He did not get his own outfielder's glove until Wednesday, the day he played outfield for just the third time in 455 professional games.

"It was a rush order," he said, showing off the new leather on his first day as a big-leaguer Thursday. "Before that I was using one of (pitcher) Ben Lively's extra gloves."
A couple of weeks of pregame outfield workouts and three games in the outfield at the Triple A level were enough to convince Phillies management to give Hoskins, a natural first baseman, a look in the outfield. He was promoted from Lehigh Valley to the majors on Thursday, in time to start in left field against the New York Mets.

"For Hoskins, we've talked about it all year," general manager Matt Klentak said, "his performance needs to meet up with the opportunity. He was taking care of [the performance], but he needed some help with the other half. Really, the trade of Howie Kendrick 10 days ago, coupled with Aaron Altherr's hamstring injury, is what created the opportunity. 

"He had been working out pretty hard for the two or three weeks. He was taking fly balls in left field during batting practice. Once the Altherr injury recurred, then we got him out there for a few games in left field. He demonstrated that he can handle it. Once he proved that to us, we decided to bring him up."

Hoskins, 24, more than proved his readiness with the bat. After putting up big numbers in Single A and Double A in 2015 and 2016, respectively, he hit .284 with 24 doubles, 29 homers, 91 RBIs and a .966 OPS in 115 games at Lehigh Valley this season.

Truth be told, Hoskins has been ready for a big-league challenge for a couple of months. His promotion would have come sooner if Tommy Joseph, the Phillies' starting first baseman, hadn't come alive at the plate in May. The Phillies made Joseph available for a trade in July, but a deal could not be struck. The Hoskins/outfield experiment intensified around the trade deadline and the trade of Kendrick to Washington, coupled with Altherr's injury, facilitated Hoskins' presence in left field at Citizens Bank Park on Thursday night.

Hoskins is here for the remainder of the season. Phillies management wants him to get as many at-bats as possible to help his adjustment to big-league pitching. The front office also wants to gauge his readiness to claim an everyday spot in the lineup for the start of next season. That would likely come at first base. Hoskins will continue to get pregame work at the position and will play there on occasion. The team will likely continue to shop Joseph in the offseason while hoping he can use the final seven weeks of the season build trade value.

"I'm going to get him as many at-bats as I can," manager Pete Mackanin said of Hoskins. "The whole goal is to find good hitters. Tommy is a good hitter and so is Rhys Hoskins and we want to get as many good hitters as we can. I told Tommy, 'I'm not throwing you by the wayside, you're going to play, too.' I have confidence in Tommy, as well. It's just a matter of finding as many good hitters as possible and finding a way to play them."

Hoskins, selected in the fifth round of the 2014 draft out of Sacramento State University, is a confident guy. At Major League Baseball's Futures Game in Miami last month, he was asked if he believed he was ready for the big leagues.

"Of course I'm ready," he replied (see story).

At that time, he was strictly a first baseman; the outfield experiment had not yet begun.

For the record, Hoskins has some outfield on his resume. He played left field as a college freshman and also in the Cape Cod League. He believes he can handle the assignment — for however long it lasts.

"I’m here and I’m playing left field tonight and that’s what I’m focused on," Hoskins said. "They’ve said, ‘Hey, we still want you to do your work at first,’ so I think that means they’ll be some first base in the future. But as for tonight, I’ll be in left field. I'm excited to get going."

MLB Playoffs: Verlander, Astros beat Yankees to force Game 7 in ALCS

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MLB Playoffs: Verlander, Astros beat Yankees to force Game 7 in ALCS


HOUSTON — Justin Verlander remained perfect with Houston, pitching seven shutout innings when the team needed him most, and Jose Altuve homered and drove in three runs as the Astros extended the AL Championship Series to a decisive Game 7 with a 7-1 win over the New York Yankees on Friday night.

Acquired in an Aug. 31 trade, Verlander has won all nine outings with the Astros. And with his new club facing elimination in Game 6 against the Yankees, he delivered again.

After striking out 13 in a complete-game victory in Game 2, Verlander threw another gem. The right-hander scattered five hits and struck out eight to improve to 9-0 with 67 strikeouts since being traded from Detroit. George Springer helped him out of a jam in the seventh, leaping to make a catch at the center-field wall and rob Todd Frazier of extra bases with two on and Houston up 3-0.

Game 7 is Saturday night in Houston, with the winner advancing to the World Series against the NL champion Los Angeles Dodgers.

Dusty Baker fired by Nationals after 2 NL East titles


Dusty Baker fired by Nationals after 2 NL East titles

WASHINGTON -- Dusty Baker's time as the manager of the Washington Nationals is over after two seasons, two NL East titles and zero playoff series victories.

The Nationals announced Friday that they would not be bringing Baker back. His two-year deal with the club is expiring.

The contracts for the members of Baker's coaching staff also are finished. The team said it will work with its new manager to fill those positions.

The moves come the week after Washington was eliminated from its NL Division Series against the Chicago Cubs with a 9-8 loss at home in Game 5. The Nationals also were bounced from the postseason in the NLDS round in 2016 -- also with a Game 5 loss at home by one run, that time against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

This outcome, essentially, is what Baker was worried about as far back as spring training in February, when he made clear his desire for a new contract, knowing his was up after 2017.

Before the series against the Cubs began, Baker was asked about his possible future in Washington.

"I've given some thought to some things, but we were told that we were waiting until after the season to make a determination," he said at the time. "There's a good chance I'll be back."

He expected negotiations to pick up after the season ended (see full story).

Turner, Taylor repay Dodgers' patience by sharing NLCS MVP
CHICAGO -- Justin Turner and Chris Taylor shared MVP honors in the NL Championship Series, repaying a Dodgers organization willing to roll the dice on players whose big league careers were stalled.

In Turner's case, it was then-bench coach Tim Wallach who rediscovered him playing in a Cal State-Fullerton alumni baseball game four years ago, after his career appeared all but over.

In Taylor's case, it was Los Angeles' willingness to gamble that an offseason of grueling workouts would enable the young utilityman to rebuild his swing in a matter of months.

The co-MVPs turned up in the interview room together after the Dodgers eliminated the reigning World Series champion Chicago Cubs 11-1 in Game 5. They were champagne-soaked with hats turned backward, a pair of goggles still perched on Turner's head. Fittingly, they doused each other with praise.

"He's a dynamic player and a table setter," said Turner, who hit .333 for the series, with two home runs and seven RBIs. "When he goes, we usually go as a team."

"I talk to him as much as I can. He's one of the reasons I decided to make the changes I did," said Taylor, who finished at .316 with two homers and three RBIs. Both men also walked five times, as many as the entire Cubs roster (see full story).

Rare Jackie Robinson rookie jersey up for auction
NEW YORK -- A rare jersey from Jackie Robinson's historic rookie season with the Brooklyn Dodgers 70 years ago could be available for someone with a few spare millions.

The jersey, part of a Heroes of Sports offering by Heritage Auctions, has been certified by Mears, one of the top memorabilia authentication companies. It is accompanied by a letter from Robinson's widow, Rachel, saying it is the one brought home by the Hall of Famer at the end of the 1947 season, when he became the first black player in the majors and earned Rookie of the Year honors.

"This is the only one known from the `47 season, the only one that survived," Chris Ivy, Heritage's director of sports auctions, told The Associated Press in a phone interview. "It stayed in his closet for five decades plus until it was eventually sold to a private collector in the early 2000s."

The online auction opened Friday and closes at 11 p.m. on Nov. 19. The entire collection is from one owner and can be viewed on Heritage's website. Other items available for bidding include Babe Ruth's pants from the Hall of Fame induction in 1939, Keith Hernandez's 1978 Gold Glove award, a Wilt Chamberlain jersey from 1966, Bill Vukovich's Indianapolis 500 trophy from 1953 and Muhammad Ali's shoes from his fight against Ken Norton in 1973.

Ivy said the Robinson jersey has been valued at more than $3 million. He wouldn't be surprised to see it exceed that.

"It's tough to estimate a piece like this -- it's a one of a kind," he said. "As far as collectibles a rookie (jersey) is always sought after, something that's significant."