Rhys Hoskins — there's nothing he can't do — leads Phillies' home run barrage

Rhys Hoskins — there's nothing he can't do — leads Phillies' home run barrage


Rhys Hoskins makes the best cheesesteak in town. He can run the Rocky steps in three seconds flat then knock out 50 push-ups at the top. One-handed. He can bench press the Liberty Bell, dunk on Joel Embiid and part traffic on the Schuylkill with a simple wave of his hand.

He is the most interesting man in Philadelphia. There is nothing he can't do.

And, on Thursday night, he became the first player in baseball history to be asked for his autograph in the dugout ... by a teammate ... during the game.

"He's creating history," said Cameron Perkins, who approached Hoskins with a ball in the dugout and requested an autograph after the rookie slugger belted his nightly homer in the Phillies' 10-0 demolition of the Miami Marlins at Citizens Bank Park (see observations).

"What he's doing is ridiculous. It's fun to watch. It's still underappreciated. I don't think everybody understands how hard it is to do that over and over again."

Hoskins has been with the Phillies since Aug. 10 for a total of 34 games and 118 at-bats. He has 18 home runs, which is just three shy of the team lead held by Tommy Joseph. With 16 games left, he stands an excellent chance of leading the club in home runs — remarkable considering he did not hit his first home run until Aug. 14.

He hit four of them in the Phillies' three-game sweep of the Marlins. The Phillies won the first game in 15 innings then outscored the Marlins, 18-1, over the next two games.

Hoskins is now rivaling Carson Wentz as the hottest autograph in town, so hot that his teammates playfully ask for them in the dugout.

"It's fun," Hoskins said. "I don't think hitting a home run is ever not going to be fun — for everyone. When someone hits a home run, it gives the team a little jolt, a little spark of energy and obviously the long ball was good to us tonight."

Indeed, the Phillies hit four of them — three against Miami's Vance Worley in the second inning.

Jorge Alfaro hit a rising line drive into the second deck in left (459 feet) and Freddy Galvis hit one 414 feet to left-center before Hoskins smacked a two-run shot, his first to the opposite field (see video).

"That was fun," manager Pete Mackanin said of the entire night. "Alfaro hit that bomb, Freddy hit a two-run dinger and Hoskins hit another blah, blah, blah, blah, blah."

Clearly, Mackanin is running out of words to describe Hoskins' home run frenzy, which started with 29 in 115 games at Triple A Lehigh Valley.

But Perkins, a teammate of Hoskins in the minors and now in the majors, is not running out of words.

"I know you guys are new to this because he hasn't been up here, but I've been playing with him all year and this is the exact same thing as spring training and Lehigh Valley," Perkins said. "He's so good at putting quality at-bats together even when he gets out or strikes out. He sees a bunch of pitches or he'll walk. He's a very special hitter. He makes it look easy. Sometimes it can be frustrating to watch him because it's hit, hit, hit, hit. It's so hard and he makes it look so easy. He's a very good, very smart hitter."

Perkins came off the bench and hit the Phillies' fourth home run as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning. His first big-league homer came against Miami lefty Justin Nicolino and he received a celebratory water-cooler dousing after the game.

"That was pretty cool," Hoskins said. "He put a good swing on it. I heard a couple of guys say they thought he was going to do it on that at-bat. The couple years I played with him he has hit lefties pretty well, so that was a special moment. I'm happy for him. It's something that he’ll always remember."

Perkins confirmed that.

"It's the moment I've been waiting for my entire life," said Perkins, a rookie who will turn 27 later this month. "Everyone wants the dream of having the cooler dumped on them, even though it wasn't as significant as I'd hope in a 9-0 game. But I'll still take it. Everyone dreams of hitting that walk-off home run. But getting the cooler dumped on you and finally getting one is definitely a dream come true."

Perkins will work on getting the ball as a souvenir.

He has a plan.

"If I have to bargain, I'll get Rhys to sign some balls," he said. "I'm sure the person who caught my home run ball would love Rhys' autograph. I'm going to need some of those."

Phillies’ focus turns to Aaron Nola, Scott Kingery, bench competition

USA Today Images

Phillies’ focus turns to Aaron Nola, Scott Kingery, bench competition


FORT MYERS, Fla. – The Phillies began their final full week in Florida on Sunday with a game against the Minnesota Twins. It provided manager Gabe Kapler the opportunity to look at a number of important areas — some settled, some unsettled — of his roster.

To wit:

• The opening day battery of Aaron Nola and Jorge Alfaro worked together. Nola battled through an early rough patch and delivered five innings of two-run ball. He will have one more start before he gets the call in Atlanta in 11 days.

• Scott Kingery, everybody’s favorite prospect, got the start at third base. He had two hits, raising his average to .378 (14 for 37), and made a nice play on a bunt. Kingery is projected to open at Triple A so the Phillies can control his rights through 2024. But that doesn’t mean he’ll be down there long. He projects as the second baseman of the future, but Cesar Hernandez is at the position for now. Third base could be a temporary landing spot for Kingery if Maikel Franco struggles. Kingery played some third at Triple A last season. Yes, Kapler wants to create versatility on his roster. But it was still notable that Kingery got his first look of the spring at third. He will get more time in the outfield before camp ends.

“We want him ready to step in and play all over the diamond whenever that time is,” Kapler said.

• The battle for bench spots was in full display. It’s not clear if the Phils have two or three spots open on the bench because they don’t need a fifth starting pitcher until April 11 and that could allow them a five-man bench at the outset. Regardless, the competition will come into focus this week.  Candidates Ryan Flaherty, Adam Rosales, Pedro Florimon, Jesmuel Valentin and Roman Quinn all played in the game.

Quinn, Florimon and Valentin are all on the 40-man roster so that could help their chances. Quinn, an outfielder by trade, got another look at shortstop. Florimon played left field, had a hit and walked twice. Valentin, an infielder by trade, got a look in right field and belted his third homer of the spring, a three-run shot, for the Phillies’ only runs in a 4-3 loss.

“Valentin has really put his strongest foot forward,” Kapler said. “He’s demonstrated pop, versatility and come up with huge hits.”

Flaherty, who played seven different positions with the Orioles over the last six seasons, started at first base and had a hit. He’s hitting .333.

“He’s having an awesome spring,” Kapler said.

Like Flaherty, Rosales, who has played parts of the last 10 seasons in the majors, can also play anywhere. Flaherty has an out in his minor-league contract on Thursday, so that could bring some clarity to his situation. If he’s still in the hunt Saturday, the Phillies must add him to the 40-man roster, pay him a $100,000 retention bonus or allow him to walk. Ditto for Rosales. So the bench picture will start to come into focus soon.

“There’s a lot to be excited about in that bench role,” Kapler said.

Charlie Manuel keeps his promise to Roy Halladay's son

Jim Salisbury/NBCSP

Charlie Manuel keeps his promise to Roy Halladay's son

DUNEDIN, Fla. – It’s not hard to find Charlie Manuel in spring training. In late mornings, he’s perched behind the batting cage watching Phillies hitters take their swings. During the game, he’s on the top step of the dugout, taking it all in and offering advice where needed.

Manuel didn’t stay for the game Saturday. He watched batting practice, showered and drove out of the parking lot 30 minutes before the first pitch.

Manuel, you see, had a promise to keep.

Back in November, Manuel was one of nine people to speak at Roy Halladay’s memorial service at Spectrum Field, the Phillies’ spring training home. Manuel stood at a podium near the very mound that Halladay trained on and spoke from the heart about what an honor it was to manage such a great talent and competitor. Manuel had jotted his words down on a paper, but he didn’t stick completely to his script that day. At one point, he looked down at Halladay’s two grieving sons, Braden and Ryan, and told them he’d be keeping tabs on their progress as young ballplayers. Manuel promised to attend their games. And that’s just what he did Saturday afternoon.

Braden Halladay, a lanky 17-year-old right-hander who bears a striking resemblance to his dad, on and off the mound, is a member of the Canadian Junior Team’s spring training roster. He was born in Toronto when his dad played for the Blue Jays, hence his eligibility to pitch for Canada.

On Saturday, Braden pitched a scoreless eighth inning against a Jays’ split-squad team on the very Dunedin Stadium mound where his dad began his career.

“I’m so glad I came over,” Manuel said after Braden’s perfect inning of work. “He did good. I’m glad he got ‘em out.”

This wasn’t the first time Manuel had seen Braden pitch. Braden pitches for Calvary Christian High School in Clearwater, where he is a junior. Manuel watched him pitch five shutout innings earlier in the week. And on Wednesday night, Manuel attended young brother Ryan’s practice in Clearwater.

Manuel has a warm spot for the boys for a lot of reasons. Obviously, there was the respect he had for their dad. “When I think of Roy, I think of the perfect game and playoff no-hitter first,” Manuel said. “Right after that, I think of his work ethic. It was the best I’ve ever seen.” 

But Manuel’s affection for the boys goes beyond the respect he had for their dad. Manuel was 18, the oldest son in a family of 11 children, when he lost his dad.

“I feel for those boys,” Manuel said. “I know what they’re going through and it isn’t easy. Not easy at all.”

It takes a lot of love to get through a tragedy like the one the Halladay family has gone through. The boys get it from their mom, Brandy, who is at all of their games. And they get it from people like Charlie Manuel.

Saturday’s first pitch at Dunedin Stadium, just a few miles from the Phillies’ ballpark, was scheduled for 1:15 p.m. Manuel wanted to hustle over so he could wish Braden luck before the game. Manuel made his way down to the bullpen area and spotted one of his former Phillies players, Pete Orr, who is a coach with the Canadian team. Orr called over to Braden. A huge smile crossed the kid’s face when he saw Manuel. He sprinted over and gave Manuel a hug. Orr, who grew up near Toronto, slapped Braden on the back of his Team Canada jersey and said, “He looks good in red and white.”

He sure did.

Braden chatted with Manuel for a minute or two, and Manuel wished him luck. A reporter from Philadelphia asked Braden what it felt like to have Manuel keep tabs on his baseball career.

“It’s pretty sweet,” Braden said with a big smile. “It means a lot to me.”

The reporter wished him luck and told him that all of Philadelphia was rooting for him.

“I appreciate that,” the young pitcher said before trotting off to join his teammates.

Braden Halladay is 6-3 and 150 pounds. He entered the game in the bottom of the eighth inning with his team down, 11-3, at first to a smattering of applause. That grew into a big, beautiful round of applause after the PA man announced his name and everyone in the crowd realized the magnitude of the moment. Braden knelt behind the mound and wrote his dad’s initials in the dirt before delivering his first pitch. His pitching delivery is smooth and fundamentally pure.

“You can tell Roy worked with him,” Manuel said.

Braden mixed his pitches nicely in getting two pop-ups and a ground ball. He hit 83 mph on the stadium radar gun. A few months ago, Braden announced that he had committed to Penn State. Manuel sees a lot of promise in the kid.

“When he’s 21, he’ll pitch at 205 pounds,” Manuel said. “He’ll get stronger. You watch, he’s got a chance to be real good. He has a good, quick arm, command of the ball and mechanics.”

Where the game will eventually take Braden Halladay is a story for another day. Back in November, he sat in the middle of a baseball field and listened to people eulogize his dad. It was an excruciatingly difficult experience and the look on his face that day said as much.

So on Saturday, it was just great to see Braden Halladay back on a baseball field with a smile on his face. And it was great to see Charlie Manuel there, taking it all in, just as he had promised.