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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Bryce Harper's lefty-mashing gives opposing managers even more to think about late in games

Bryce Harper's lefty-mashing gives opposing managers even more to think about late in games

With a runner or two in scoring position midway through a close game and Bryce Harper due up, managers opposing the Phillies will face the season-long decision whether to go after Harper or pitch around him with Rhys Hoskins lurking. 

On opening day, an intentional walk of Harper led to a Hoskins grand slam. Saturday night in Colorado, Harper continued to complicate that decision for opposing managers by hitting a three-run home run off a lefty reliever.

It is a situation that lacks a correct answer. Do you go lefty-lefty vs. Harper? Do you walk him and go righty-righty vs. Hoskins? Do you base it on who has looked better that night or the few preceding games?

Harper's homer came against 11th-year lefty specialist Mike Dunn, a reliever he's seen more than any other throughout his eight-year major-league career. In 23 plate appearances against lefties this season, Harper has gone 7 for 18 (.389) with two doubles, two homers, four walks and four strikeouts. He's reached base 12 times — more than half of his plate appearances vs. lefties.

This isn't small sample size theater, either. Over the last five seasons, the only left-handed hitter in the majors with a higher OPS against lefties than Harper is Joey Votto. Since 2015, Harper's hit .277/.383/.489 against lefties — a higher batting average than fellow lefties Corey Seager and Robinson Cano, a higher OBP than Freddie Freeman, a better slugging percentage than Christian Yelich.

The pitch Harper hit out last night against Dunn was not a good one. It was an 86 mph, middle-in slider that didn't move much. It was a mistake. But you still have to barrel up that mistake. It could have easily been pulled foul or skied high in the air.

Harper doesn't look great in every at-bat against a lefty. He occasionally pulls off, leaving himself in a bad position to make contact. One of the impressive parts of his game Saturday night was that he rolled over to the right side of the infield twice in his first three at-bats by trying to pull pitches too far outside, before hitting that two-strike homer off Dunn.

Every time Harper does damage against a left-hander, it will create one more wrinkle for the opposing manager to consider. The situation last night was the seventh inning, two outs, runners on second and third with the Phillies up 4-3. There could have been merit to pitching around Harper to get to Hoskins.

Twenty games in, we've seen the Phillies make the other team pay no matter which option they choose.

A step forward for Aaron Nola and a dream come true for Phil Gosselin

A step forward for Aaron Nola and a dream come true for Phil Gosselin

DENVER — Phil Gosselin had been here before, just not in front of 40,530 fans.

“I’ve been up with the bases loaded a lot for the Phillies,” he said late Saturday night in the visiting clubhouse at Coors Field. “It was just in my backyard as a kid and it didn’t really count.”

This one counted.

“It felt good to come through,” he said with a smile.

Gosselin grew up in West Chester, saw his first big-league game at Veterans Stadium wearing a Scott Rolen shirt, and went on to star at Malvern Prep and the University of Virginia. All these years later, after stops on the big-league trail in Atlanta, Arizona, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Texas, Gosselin helped the team he grew up rooting for — the team that he says made him fall in love with baseball — win a game.

The 30-year-old infielder clubbed a three-run double in the fourth inning to give the Phils a lead that they never relinquished in an 8-5 win over the Colorado Rockies (see observations).

What would that little kid in the backyard think now?

“He would think it was all a dream, to be honest,” Gosselin said. “It was always a goal of mine. I never thought I was that great. I never thought I’d be in the big leagues, if I’m being honest. It was one of those pinch-yourself kind of moments.”

Gosselin signed a minor-league deal with the Phils in December and was recalled from Triple A Lehigh Valley on Wednesday. He got the start, his first with the Phils, at shortstop after the team placed Scott Kingery and Jean Segura on the injured list earlier Saturday (see story). Both have hamstring injuries. Gosselin will likely play shortstop until Segura is eligible to come off the IL next weekend. Kingery will need more time than that.

Gosselin’s three-run double, coupled with Bryce Harper’s three-run home run late in the game, helped make a winner out of Aaron Nola on a night when the right-hander showed signs of being his old self after a rough start to the season. Gosselin’s no-out double was a long fly ball to right-center that kept carrying and carrying before hitting the top of the wall.

“I wasn’t sure if it was going to get off the wall or not,” he said. “I was talking to it the whole way. Luckily, I got enough of it.”

One night earlier, Gosselin entered the game after Kingery injured himself. He stroked a two-out single in the top of the 12th and came around to score on a double by Harper. For a few moments, it looked as if he was going to be one of the stars of an extra-innings win. Then Charlie Blackmon ended all the Phillies’ feel-good storylines with a two-run homer in the bottom of the inning and Gosselin’s hit was just a footnote to what manager Gabe Kapler called a “brutal” loss.

“Good organizations, teams that win, have guys like Gosselin come up and perform in big moments,” Kapler said. “You can't win a lot of games, you can't go to the postseason, unless you have guys from the minor leagues come up and perform. Your non-roster guy that gets a big hit for you. He's been swinging the bat really well. He's earned the right to keep rolling.

“I can only imagine what it's like to grow up in the Philadelphia area as a die-hard Phillies fan and then to come through like he did. He must be on top of the world right now.”

Even beyond the victory, which improved the Phils to 12-8, there was something important to feel good about. Nola had struggled in his previous outings. Though he allowed 10 base runners in 5 2/3 innings, he battled, made big pitches and got big outs — he had nine strikeouts — at crucial junctures of the game.

“His back was against the wall early on,” Kapler said. “He's just a fighter. Nothing fazes Aaron Nola. I know that this has been tough to struggle a little bit. But he showed you why he is such a strong performer. He's able to withstand some of that pressure.

“It was really comforting to see him come out and perform like that for us.”

Nola’s fastball reached 95 mph and his curveball got better and better as the night went on.

“I didn’t get a 1-2-3 inning all night,” Nola said. “There was always traffic on base so I had to bear down and focus on making quality pitches.”

Something to build on?

“Absolutely,” Nola said.

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