Phillies

Clearwater chronicles: Rhys Hoskins hurting, Andrew McCutchen to lead off

Clearwater chronicles: Rhys Hoskins hurting, Andrew McCutchen to lead off

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Lots of newsy notes from Phillies camp this morning.

Let’s get to it:

• Rhys Hoskins has a sore left shoulder. Manager Gabe Kapler said it was nothing serious. Hoskins was not in the lineup Wednesday, but he did participate in fielding drills. He is expected to play over the weekend and be ready for opening day.

Hoskins said he tweaked the shoulder taking an awkward swing on Sunday. He was confident the issue would clear up quickly. An MRI revealed no structural damage.

“There are no concerns about him starting the season,” Kapler said. “We’ll give him a couple of days to let things calm down. We have him penciled into the last couple of spring training games.”

The Phillies play their last two games in Florida on Sunday and Monday in Clearwater. Opening day in March 28.

• Kapler revealed that Andrew McCutchen will open the season as the team’s leadoff man. Cesar Hernandez, who led off extensively last season, will likely hit sixth or seventh, Kapler said.

McCutchen has 1,282 plate appearances as a leadoff man in his career. His on-base percentage in that spot is .367. McCutchen has hit most in the No. 3 spot — 3,861 plate appearances.

“I talked to both guys,” Kapler said. “The likelihood is we’re going to start the season with McCutchen at the top of the lineup. I love his profile up there. I love his ability to see pitches. I love his history of on-base.”

Using McCutchen in the leadoff spot also gives Kapler some matchup flexibility in the middle of the lineup as he doesn’t have to hit Hoskins, J.T. Realmuto and McCutchen (all right-handed hitters) in consecutive spots.

“I like the idea of Odubel (Herrera) and Cesar in the middle to give us a little mix and match," Kapler said.

Kapler juggled his lineup often last season. He hopes to avoid that this season.

“One of the things I’m committed to going forward is trying to create some consistency for these guys, especially because they have the capability to really flourish in these lineups spots,” Kapler said.

Hernandez is OK with batting in the middle of the order.

“He’d like to settle in to one spot and I want to respect that,” Kapler said. “I’m not saying it will always happen, but I will do everything I can to respect that. He’s a veteran player and we’ll do whatever we can to make him comfortable.”

• The Phillies do not have a pure backup first baseman for Hoskins. In the event Hoskins needed relief, Maikel Franco would move over from third base and Scott Kingery would fill that spot. Franco will get some reps at first base Friday night against the Yankees in Tampa.

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Mets pick an incredibly lame moment to send Rhys Hoskins and Phillies a message

Mets pick an incredibly lame moment to send Rhys Hoskins and Phillies a message

NEW YORK — Two nights in a row, the Phillies have been outclassed by the Mets. Two nights in a row, there's been drama in an otherwise blah game.

The Phillies lost, 9-0, to Zack Wheeler and the Mets in the second game of the series (see observations), 24 hours after dropping a 5-1 decision that included a Bryce Harper ejection and a postgame message from Jake Arrieta to his teammates, through the media (see story).

On Tuesday, with two outs and nobody on in the ninth inning of a blowout, Mets reliever Jacob Rhame decided it was the appropriate time to send a message on behalf of his team after two Mets were hit by pitches the previous night.

The first pitch Rhame threw to Rhys Hoskins was a 96 mph fastball over his head. Hoskins was clearly annoyed by it, taking a few steps toward the mound as both benches slowly began to clear. After about 20 seconds, things cooled down and the at-bat continued.

Five pitches later, Rhame threw another fastball over Hoskins' head, this one at 97 mph, for ball four. Hoskins angrily slammed his bat and Mets catcher Travis d'Arnaud quickly stepped in front of him to create a barrier between Hoskins and the mound.

"Oh, he just said they were trying to go inside, and I laughed," Hoskins said.

Clearly intentional. Clearly a retaliatory attempt or message from the Mets a night after two consecutive Mets were unintentionally hit by pitches from Jose Alvarez and Juan Nicasio.

"He didn't miss up and in the rest of the inning, so I'll let you decide," Hoskins said after the game.

When asked if it was lame for a pitcher to choose the potential final at-bat of a blowout to throw at a batter, Hoskins tried to be as diplomatic as possible.

"I would think so," he said. "But I understand baseball. They got hit a couple of times yesterday."

This kind of situation comes up every once in a while across baseball, and hitters always say they understand the deal but that it's not cool to throw at a guy's head. Which it's not. Ever. Especially in the age of high-90s velocity.

"I don't get it," Bryce Harper said. "I understand that two of their guys got hit yesterday. But, I mean, if it's baseball and you're going to drill somebody, at least hit him in the ass. Not in the head. You throw 98, it's scary now. You could kill somebody. Lose your eyesight. That's bigger than the game."

Harper referenced the time Hunter Strickland hit him with a pitch to retaliate for the two home runs Harper hit off of him in the playoffs three years prior. It was a silly thing for Strickland to do, but at least it was in a safer spot.

"Strick hit me in the butt. I still went and got him," Harper said, referring to his charging the mound. "But, you know, I respected him for it because he hit me in the butt. I understand protecting your guys and two of their really good guys got hit yesterday. You never want to see your star players get hit. If you're going to throw at Rhys right there — I don't know if he did or not. I know he said, 'My bad.' Hopefully, he didn't. But if you're going to, just hit him in the butt."

One could theorize this may wake up a slumping Phillies offense. The same could have been said Monday of Harper's ejection, which did nothing but further deplete a Phils lineup missing two starters and its super-utilityman.

They'll have a chance Wednesday night to get back on track against the constantly hittable Jason Vargas, a soft-tossing lefty with a 9.58 ERA. If they can't, they'll come home totally demoralized from a road trip through Colorado and New York that included injuries and several silent offensive performances.

"We just haven't played good baseball these last couple of days," Hoskins said. "End of a long road trip. It's a big game tomorrow. We'll be excited to go back home, but we've got to take care of business tomorrow against these guys."

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Mets 9, Phillies 0: No answers for Zack Wheeler at the plate or on the mound

Mets 9, Phillies 0: No answers for Zack Wheeler at the plate or on the mound

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK — It was the Zack Wheeler show Tuesday night at Citi Field, in a game Phillies manager Gabe Kapler described as "important" hours earlier in his office.

Wheeler dominated the Phillies on the mound, striking out 11 over seven innings in a 9-0 Mets win.

At the plate, Wheeler hit a two-run double and a solo home run off of Zach Eflin. Wheeler entered the game with a .129 batting average and no home runs in just under 200 career plate appearances.

Todd Frazier broke the game open in the fifth with a grand slam off of Drew Anderson. It came after an intentional walk of Phillie-killer Jeff McNeil.

Kapler referred to it as an important game because of how flat the Phillies had looked in their previous two against the Rockies and Mets. They scored one run in each of those games, and Jake Arrieta had some fiery things to say after Monday's loss.

This was the Phillies' first shutout loss of 2019 and they've been outscored 18-2 since Sunday.

The Phillies certainly did not impress, but from an offensive standpoint, this one was more about Wheeler's electric stuff. From the first inning on, Wheeler threw his fastball consistently at 98 and 99 mph, had a low-90s splitter that was falling off the table and a mid-80s slider that kept hitters off balance. 

You have to remember that Wheeler was 9-1 with a 1.68 ERA after the All-Star break last year. He's a major key not just to the Mets but to this entire NL East race.

The Phillies have lost five of the last six games and are 12-11. The Mets are 13-10.

With two outs and nobody on in the ninth inning of a 9-0 game, Mets reliever Jacob Rhame threw two pitches over Rhys Hoskins' head in the same at-bat. After the first one, Hoskins took a few steps toward the mound and both benches began to come out on the field. The situation was diffused.

A few pitches later, Rhame threw ball four over Hoskins' head. Hoskins slammed his bat against the ground.

It looked like a message from the Mets after they were hit twice in the same inning last night (more on the story here).

Get well soon

The Phillies' offense has been anemic with the hamstring injuries of Jean Segura, Odubel Herrera and Scott Kingery. Segura is likely to return Saturday, and Herrera could be back soon after his 10 days on the injured list are up on April 28.

Unlike the first two weeks of the season, there are currently several easy outs to be had in the Phillies' lineup. Roman Quinn has been lost at the plate, going 2 for 21 with 13 strikeouts since being called up. Phil Gosselin is 0 for 12 since his three-run double in Colorado.

The Phillies' only offense against Wheeler came from Maikel Franco, who singled between short and third and later doubled to the opposite field.

Pivetta update

Nick Pivetta made his first start at Triple A Tuesday against Pawtucket. He overcame a wild, 28-pitch first inning to strike out nine over six innings. He allowed four runs.

Harper hitless

Bryce Harper hasn't done much hitting in the five games against the Mets, going 2 for 16 with a pair of singles and eight strikeouts.

What about Williams?

It sounds like Nick Williams will get his first start of the season in the Phillies' upcoming four-game home series against the Marlins. Kapler wants to get Andrew McCutchen off his feet for a day and identified one of the middle games of that series as an opportunity to do so. The Phils face a left-handed starter Thursday in the series opener and in Sunday's finale vs. Miami.

Up next

The Phillies-Mets series concludes Wednesday night with Vince Velasquez (0-0, 2.55) opposing veteran soft-tossing lefty Jason Vargas (1-0, 9.58).

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