Rhys Hoskins, leadoff man? Wait, what?

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Rhys Hoskins, leadoff man? Wait, what?

TAMPA, Fla. — For a month last season, Rhys Hoskins was one of the most exciting power hitters in baseball. Heck, in terms of games played, no major leaguer had ever hit 18 home runs faster than Hoskins, who did it the first 34 games of his career. His 47 homers last season (between the majors and Triple A) were the third most in all of pro ball, behind two fellas named Stanton and Judge.

Hoskins got to line up across from Giancarlo Stanton (59 homers last season) and Aaron Judge (52) when the Phillies traveled to Steinbrenner Field to play the Yankees on Monday night. Actually, Judge did not play. The Yankees are taking it slow with him as he comes back from offseason shoulder surgery. He will play later this week. He did take batting practice — with Hoskins watching from the top step of the dugout — and put on a big power show, as did Stanton, who was in the lineup, hitting fourth, baseball’s classic power spot.

That’s what made the Phillies’ lineup so interesting. And unusual. Manager Gabe Kapler used Hoskins in the leadoff spot. Don’t bank on seeing that during the regular season, but in spring training … well, out-of-the-box thinker Kapler will try anything.

“Spring training spots in the lineup, spring training positions on the diamond, they’re practice, they’re processes, they’re ways for us not to do things for the first time in the season," Kapler said.

For instance, Cesar Hernandez started at shortstop. If there’s ever a time when he has to go over there during the regular season, it won’t be foreign to him.

Batting Hoskins first was a way to get him more at-bats early in the game, and a way to get him out of the game earlier so he can recover in time for the next workday.

“We’re always going to keep the long view in mind and sometimes lineups can be a demonstration of that,” Kapler said.

When the Phillies open the season March 29 in Atlanta, look for Hoskins to hit fourth. Carlos Santana might hit second. Kapler said he believes the two-hole and the four-hole are the most crucial in the lineup.

“The two-hole comes up with runners on base so often and the four-hole, as well,” Kapler said.

Lineups ultimately will be decided by matchups, data and film study. These are the new Phillies. Kapler said he could construct a lineup that has a player in a key spot in the lineup based on how his swing path matches up with an opposing pitcher’s pitch characteristics. He mentioned that he once batted third for Tampa Bay based on that very reason.

Believe it or not, this wasn’t the first time Hoskins had hit first.

“My sophomore or junior year (at Sacramento State), I did it one weekend,” he said. “We were struggling and our coach just tried to change things up. It got us going.”

The next weekend, Hoskins was back in the four-hole, land of the power hitter.

Brushbacks, hit batsmen, ejections in Phils’ spring training game

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Brushbacks, hit batsmen, ejections in Phils’ spring training game


CLEARWATER, Fla. – The Phillies bring extra pitchers over from the minor-league complex for bullpen depth every game in spring training. For the pitchers, it’s a nice little recognition of a job well done. They often don’t get in the game, but they get to put on a big-league uniform and put a day’s worth of big-league meal money in their pocket.
Parker Frazier got even more than that on Thursday. He not only got in the game. He got ejected.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen that in a spring training game,” Frazier said with a laugh afterward. “I’ll take the first for something.”

Home plate umpire Tom Hallion gave Frazier the boot for hitting Detroit’s Derek Hill with a pitch in the eighth inning of a 6-2 loss. Frazier hit Hill with an offspeed pitch, so it clearly was not intentional. But Hallion had already issued warnings to both benches after Zach Eflin had hit Jose Iglesias and Detroit’s Matthew Boyd came in close twice against Odubel Herrera. In addition to Frazier, Hallion also ejected Phillies reliever Pedro Beato for hitting a batter in the ninth. Manager Gabe Kapler and bench coach Rob Thomson were ejected with Frazier and Beato, respectively.

It made for a crazy scene, especially in a spring training game.

Herrera believed that Boyd intentionally threw at him as retaliation for Iglesias getting hit. Boyd at first threw over Herrera’s head as Herrera tried to call timeout. He then came inside on Herrera. Herrera sidestepped the pitch and took first with a walk.

“He can’t hit me,” a defiant Herrera said afterward. “I’m took quick.”

Frazier definitely wasn’t trying to hit Hill, not with a slider.

“It was a slider that didn’t slide,” he joked.

Frazier is the 29-year-old son of former big-league pitcher George Frazier. He’s a career minor-leaguer who has been in pro ball since 2007 and pitched in the Rockies, Reds, White Sox, A’s and Diamondbacks organizations. He pitched the last three seasons in independent ball and is in Phillies camp for the first time.

Frazier’s fiancée and future in-laws were in from Oklahoma for the game. They expected to see him pitch at the minor-league complex, but instead got to see him experience an eventful day in big-league camp.

After being ejected, Frazier returned to the clubhouse. A text from his fiancée awaited him.

“They wanted to know what happened,” he said. “I told them accidental hit pitch.”

Kapler wouldn't discuss what he said to Hallion after Frazier's ejection. He said he would respect the umpire's decision because those are the rules.

But Kapler made it clear that he didn’t believe his pitchers were trying to hit anyone.

“We have a minor leaguer in the game and he’s just trying to make a good impression,” Kapler said. “He threw a slider that backed up and hit somebody. Beato is also trying to make a club and make a good impression. There’s no reason to not throw strikes. Balls will get away. It’s part of the game.”

Arrieta comes out strong, but Kapler remains vague on timetable

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Arrieta comes out strong, but Kapler remains vague on timetable

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Ever since Jake Arrieta flew into town on Air Middleton and raised expectations for 2018, Phillies officials have said they would take a methodical approach with getting him ready for the regular season.

The Phils followed that plan in holding Arrieta to two innings and 31 pitches in the right-hander’s hotly anticipated spring debut against the Detroit Tigers on Thursday.

“We had a very specific pitch count in mind and we feel like we executed the innings and the pitch count to a T,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “We did not want to push the envelope at all. There’s no reason to. We’re focused on the long view.”

Arrieta struck out the first two batters of the game then allowed a solo home run to two-time American League MVP Miguel Cabrera, a double, a single and another run over the balance of his outing. He had hoped to go three innings, but understands the team’s plan.

“I'm on board with what these guys intend to do,” said the 32-year-old pitcher, who signed a three-year, $75 million contract with the Phils last week. “I know they have my health and the team's success over the long haul in mind. That's the most important thing moving forward.”

Kapler liked what he saw from Arrieta.

“It was a real positive outing,” he said. “We wanted to see health and strength. We saw both of those things and he threw strikes.”

Twenty-two of Arrieta’s 31 pitches were strikes.

Arrieta’s arm strength was impressive. He touched 95 mph on the stadium radar gun. He also threw several fastballs that registered 94. His fastball velocity had been a concern as it dropped from 94.9 mph in his Cy Young season of 2015 to 92.6 mph last season, according to PITCHf/x data.

“My timing and my delivery were nice,” Arrieta said. “The ball was coming out of my hand good. Even though I'm not particularly worried about velocity, the velocity was nice today. Sinking fastball was really good. I threw some good curveballs. The cutter wasn't necessarily great, along with the changeup. But those will come with repetition.”

Arrieta said he had “a ton of nervous energy” before the start.

“Now that it's over, I take a deep breath and I remember what it feels like to be in a game situation,” he said. “Umpires, crowd. It felt great. I'm healthy. The ball is coming out good. To get the first one out of the way — even though it is a little bit later — it's a good sign.”

Kapler continued to play things close to the vest with Arrieta’s timetable. What is clear, however, is that Arrieta will get one more start in Florida before camp breaks on Tuesday. He could build to around 50 pitches in that one and be ready to start in New York on April 2, 3 or 4. If the Phils decide that Arrieta needs two more outings to prepare for the regular season, he could debut on April 7 at home against Miami. Either way, he lines up to make 30-plus starts.