Rhys Hoskins scuffles as Phillies drop series to Athletics

Rhys Hoskins scuffles as Phillies drop series to Athletics


Turns out, Rhys Hoskins is human after all. 

After a torrid series against Miami that prompted teammate Nick Williams to declare the rookie sensation “an alien,” Hoskins showed he’s susceptible to the bad stretches that all major league hitters go through. 

A weekend that matched two of the hottest rookie sluggers in the game ended up one-sided, as Oakland’s Matt Olson homered for the third straight day and the Athletics took the rubber game of the three-game series, 6-3, Sunday with the help of former West Chester University star Joey Wendle’s grand slam (see observations)

The game at Citizens Bank Park ended when Blake Treinen fanned Hoskins with a runner on. Hoskins went 0 for 5 with three strikeouts. He struck out six times and went 0 for 11 in the three-game series. 

“I think he just expanded the zone,” manager Pete Mackanin said. “I think up until the past few days, and this is just my perspective on it, I think he was just letting it happen. And I think in the last few days he was trying to make it happen.” 

Hoskins had 18 homers in 34 games entering Friday night, with six homers in the previous six games. He spent the weekend mostly flailing away and showed his frustration when he flung his bat after flying out to right in the fifth inning. 

“I think he got a little bit overanxious,” Hoskins said. “But every hitter goes through periods like that.”

Maikel Franco went 3 for 4 and drove in two runs for the Phillies, who led 3-2 when Henderson Alvarez left with no outs in the sixth inning after what was a successful return to the big leagues following a two-year injury absence. 

But Wendle later crushed a first-pitch mistake slider from Edubray Ramos into the right-field seats. It was the Avon Grove High School product’s second career home run. 

Alvarez gave up four runs and four hits with two walks and four strikeouts, using a fastball that topped out at 93. Besides back-to-back homers by Chad Pinder and Olson in the fourth, Alvarez was pleased with his performance. 

“I was a little nervous, I have to admit,” he said through an interpreter. “It was almost like my first time in the big leagues.”

It was a milestone in a difficult journey for the 2014 NL All-Star who threw a no-hitter for the Marlins in 2013. Multiple shoulder surgeries kept him out of the majors for two years. He was playing with the Long Island Ducks in the independent Atlantic League when the Phillies signed him to a minor league deal last month.  

“A lot of people didn’t believe in me. A lot of people thought that my career was over,” Alvarez said. “It’s great to be here and I’m grateful to the Phillies for giving me the opportunity to show not only them but everyone, that I’m still good, that I can still pitch. Even after my surgeries, I feel fine and I want to keep showing everyone I’m ready to go and can still pitch.”

Alvarez could get two more starts as he hopes to land a spot in the 2018 rotation. 

“That’s the point,” Alvarez said. “I’m working hard to at least give them a reason to think about me.”

Jake Arrieta delights crowd, breaks bats

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Jake Arrieta delights crowd, breaks bats

CLEARWATER, Fla. – Spectrum Field was sold out, filled with fans clad in green and smeared with sunblock for a game against the Atlanta Braves on a festive St. Paddy’s Day.
But the main event Saturday took place several hundred yards away at the minor-league complex, two hours before the big-league game even began.
Five days after signing a three-year, $75 million contract with the Phillies, Jake Arrieta climbed atop a mound and threw a 31-pitch (two-inning) simulated game. Scott Kingery, Jorge Alfaro, Logan Moore and Andrew Pullin were the hitters. Andrew Knapp was the catcher. Players, coaches, minor-league instructors and manager Gabe Kapler all peeked in. Dozens of fans hugged the chain-link fence to get a look at the newest Phillie. They applauded when Arrieta took the mound and again when he finished.
“It was great,” the 32-year-old pitcher said moments after the workout ended. “There’s a lot of people out here. A lot of people are excited for the Phillies in 2018. We’ve got a lot of good things going on here. A lot of guys are healthy and competing, there’s a lot of youth. It’s a really fun time to be in this organization.”
Arrieta said he felt “really good physically,” not a surprise because he came into camp in terrific shape and had gotten to over 60 pitches in bullpen sessions back home in Austin, Texas. He threw all his pitches, including a couple of knee-buckling curveballs. He broke two of Alfaro’s bats, one with a sinker, one with a cutter.
“My goal was to throw everything in the arsenal for strikes and throw my off-speed pitches in and out of the zone where I could get some chases,” Arrieta said.
Arrieta did allow some contact, mostly ground balls.
Arrieta won the 2015 NL Cy Young Award with the Cubs. He won 22 games and had a 1.77 ERA that season.
A deceptive delivery is one of Arrieta’s strengths. He throws across his body and that crossfire action makes it difficult for a hitter to pick up the ball.
“It’s extremely deceptive,” Kingery said. “Every pitch is extremely deceptive. That’s what hit me. His curveball looks like it’s coming at your head then it drops.”
Arrieta is still hoping to be ready for the first week of the regular season, but the Phillies have not formulated a firm game plan. One thing is certain: They won’t rush him. They want him for the long haul. They could hold him back 10 days or so, allowing him to build more arm strength, and he’d still make 30 starts.
Arrieta expects to throw a bullpen session in the next day or two and try to get up around 60 pitches in his next outing. That could be in a minor-league game or in another simulated game.
“As long as we continue to get my pitch count up, I think I’ll be fine going into the season,” he said.

Alex Cobb? Matt Klentak discusses replacing Jerad Eickhoff

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Alex Cobb? Matt Klentak discusses replacing Jerad Eickhoff

CLEARWATER, Fla. — The Phillies signed free-agent right-hander Jake Arrieta earlier this week.

That's probably going to be the extent of their pitching additions for now.

Jerad Eickhoff is out until at least May with a strained right lat muscle and that creates a sizable hole in the Phillies rotation.

The hole is likely to be filled internally, according to general manager Matt Klentak. The team is not likely to make a run at Alex Cobb, who remains on the free-agent market.

"I doubt it," Klentak said when asked if he would look outside the organization to fill Eickhoff's spot. "I don't think we have to. I think a lot of our guys have shown very well in camp. They have gotten their pitch counts up, they're getting to the point of being fully stretched out.

"More than anything, I think we're going to have some tough decisions on figuring out who is in the rotation, who is in the bullpen, who goes into the Triple-A rotation, who goes into the Double-A rotation. We've got a lot of tough decisions to make on that front, but I don't think we're in a position where we have to go outside. We have a lot of candidates to take the ball at the big league level so we'll be fine."

Aaron Nola will start on opening day. Arrieta will be in the rotation, though he might need an extra week or so to get ready. Vince Velasquez and Nick Pivetta are likely to hold down spots. That leaves Zach Eflin, Ben Lively, Mark Leiter Jr., Jake Thompson, Drew Hutchison and Tom Eshelman in the running for the final spot in the five-man rotation. Eshelman, strike-thrower extraordinaire, was the Phillies' minor-league pitcher of the year last year and projects to be in Philadelphia before long. However, it might not be at the outset of the season because he is not on the 40-man roster. Neither is Hutchison.

The Phillies do not need a fifth starter until April 11 so they could employ some creative roster construction until then. They could go with four starters and an extra reliever or bench man. Or they could bring an extra starter and "piggyback" him with Arrieta, a move that would allow Arrieta to make an abbreviated start during the first week of the season.

"There's a decent chance we open the season with somewhat of a non-traditional 25-man roster, not because we're trying to be cute but because we don't need the fifth starter until the 11th," Klentak said. "We're going to do whatever puts us in the best position to win those first 10 days of the season."

The Phillies made one transaction on Friday. They added utility man Pedro Florimon to the 40-man roster. He had a provision in his minor-league contract that allowed him to become a free agent if he wasn't on the 40-man roster by March 15. Florimon is a candidate for a spot on the Phillies' bench. The move doesn't guarantee that Florimon will win a spot, but it gives the team more time to evaluate him. To make room for Florimon, the Phillies designated infielder Eliezer Alvarez for assignment.

Florimon homered in the Phillies' 6-4 loss to Toronto in Clearwater Friday. Cam Rupp and Cesar Hernandez also homered. Velasquez gave up five hits and a run in 2⅔ innings. He struck out five.

In Lakeland, Pivetta allowed two runs over five innings as the Phils and Tigers played to a 6-6 tie. J.P. Crawford and Ryan Flaherty both homered.