Phillies

Thomson's thoughts on Edmundo Sosa's first game in center field

Phillies

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Edmundo Sosa has been in professional baseball since 2013 and had played a grand total of one-third of an inning in center field prior to Saturday's spring training game between the Phillies and Pirates.

Sosa hit cleanup and started in center against Pirates lefty Rich Hill. He's been working out at the position in camp to try to gain even more versatility. If Sosa can adapt to center, it would be a way to pick up more plate appearances throughout the season when the Phillies face a tough lefty. Brandon Marsh is the everyday guy in center but still needs to show he can hit same-handed pitching.

Known for his glove, Sosa has played 71 percent of his major-league innings at shortstop, 15 percent at third base and 13.5 percent at second base. He's played only 3⅓ innings in the outfield, three of them with the Phillies last August in blowout losses.

Sosa's first opportunity Saturday came right away. Ke'Bryan Hayes, the second batter of the game, lined a ball to deep left-center. Sosa reacted well to it and tracked it down on the run but it narrowly eluded his glove. It would have been a great catch, particularly for someone's first chance. The next batter hit a can of corn to Sosa in center for a more traditional putout.

"For me, typical first game for an infielder moving to center field," manager Rob Thomson said. "You're probably going to see it for a bit, when the ball's hit in the air, he goes back. It's just natural. He's just got to get to the point where he instinctually just hangs out, because he's always going back on balls when he's in the infield and he goes back tremendously. He's got to trust himself and he will. He's athletic, he can run. The best route he had was the ball in the first inning and he almost ran that ball down. It would have been a hell of a catch."

 

The Phillies will carry a backup center fielder behind Marsh whether or not Sosa fares well at the position this spring. Jake Cave and Dalton Guthrie are the top two candidates to back up Marsh in center. Cave has more big-league experience and is probably the better player right now, but his left-handed bat could play into the decision. Marsh hits from the left side and so does Darick Hall, who can't play center but is in competition with Cave, Guthrie (RH), Kody Clemens (LH) and perhaps Scott Kingery (RH) for the final two spots on the Phillies' bench. Everyone in that group other than Kingery is on the 40-man roster.

Sosa, who turns 27 on Monday, is under team control for years. He is not eligible for free agency until after the 2026 season. He proved to be a valuable pickup by the Phillies last summer when they acquired him from St. Louis for left-handed reliever JoJo Romero. In 59 plate appearances with the Phils in the regular season, Sosa hit .315/.345/.593 with seven doubles, a triple, two homers and 13 RBI. He played in 13 postseason games, including four in the World Series, and went 2 for 8 with a double and two RBI.