Not long ago, Rhys Hoskins wandered to the outfield to harmlessly shag some fly balls during batting practice.
On Monday night, he was in the outfield … for a live game.
The anticipated first base prospect started in left field for the first time in his professional career. The Phillies are experimenting a bit with Hoskins, whose bat is major-league ready but his position isn't quite open with 26-year-old Tommy Joseph currently holding down first base.
Hoskins said his venture into left field started taking shape a few weeks ago before coming to fruition — for now — during Triple A Lehigh Valley's 4-2 loss to Norfolk.
"Couple of weeks ago, they said, 'Hey, go run around the outfield a little bit during BP,'" Hoskins said pregame Monday in an interview with CSNPhilly's Marshall Harris. "It was good, get my conditioning up, keep it up towards the end of the year here. Then they told me, 'Hey, start taking it a little bit more serious, getting reads off the bat.' They talked to me about it a little bit, I felt comfortable out there and here we are tonight."
The debut saw Hoskins make four putouts and no errors over nine innings. The new setting didn't slow down his bat, as Hoskins went 2 for 5 with his 85th RBI of the season. The 24-year-old is slashing .281/.385/.568 with 27 home runs, 23 doubles and 64 walks — tied for most in the International League with teammate J.P. Crawford.
The offense is what the Phillies know about Hoskins. Now they want to know if outfield is a possibility in the future, and Hoskins sounds open to the tryout.
"That's really what it is, a new challenge," he said. "I think as a competitor, like we all are in the clubhouse and in this sport, someone presents you with a new challenge, you want to be good at it — and that's what I'll try to do.
"It's been a while since I started out there, back to college. Catch the ball, hit the cutoff, to put it in simple terms. And that's really what it is.
"I'm excited. Not nervous at all. It's the same game when it comes down to it. Catch the ball and hit the cutoff."
The 6-foot-4, 225-pound Hoskins was selected by the Phillies in the fifth round of the 2014 draft out of Sacramento State, where he started 37 games in left field as a freshman. Even though that was in 2012, he'll look back on the experience moving forward.
"The one thing about the corner outfield is playing the ball with a hook or the slice," he said. "As soon as I got out there, it was like, 'OK, I've got to either not give up on a ball or get a good jump on a ball that's hooked down the line.' I got my reps in the outfield during BP and we'll go from there."
Hoskins said he wasn't surprised by the move because it had been in the works and discussed ahead of time by IronPigs manager Dusty Wathan.
As for how long the project continues is unknown.
"They didn't give me any timetable," Hoskins said. "I guess we'll see how it goes tonight. There's a lot more space out there than there is at first base, but there's a guy to my left in center field that's trying do his job, too, so I think we'll be OK."
Game 1 was fine. For all Hoskins knows, this is just the beginning.