Phil Gosselin strives for a spot with Phillies, the team that ignited his love of baseball

Jim Salisbury/NBC Sports Philadelphia

Phil Gosselin strives for a spot with Phillies, the team that ignited his love of baseball

CLEARWATER, Fla. — John Vukovich, the late, great Phillies coach who spent his entire big-league playing career battling to make teams as a utility man, once described the final days of spring training as a time he’d wake up in the middle of the night and see snakes.

Phil Gosselin knows all too well what it’s like to come to camp having to fight for the last spot on a roster.

But he doesn’t see snakes.

“I’m used to it,” he said with a laugh. “I wouldn’t know what to do if I showed up [in February] and they told me I was on the team.

“There are times [late in camp] when you’re getting changed and you look around to see if you’re being called into the manager’s office. But it’s part of the business. One of my college coaches used to say, ‘Pressure is a privilege.’ So you just show up, play well and see what happens.”

Gosselin, a local guy from West Chester who played at Malvern Prep before a stellar career at the University of Virginia, has made four straight opening day rosters with three different clubs, and “each time I didn’t find out if I made it or not until the last day,” he said.

Now, at age 30, and after stints with the Braves, Diamondbacks, Pirates, Rangers and Reds, Gosselin is in camp with the Phillies, once again trying to win the final spot on the roster. He has spent parts of the last six seasons in the majors and getting to do so again this year with the Phillies would be …

“Pretty surreal,” he said. “Whether it’s opening day, September, whenever. I went to Phillies games as a kid, watched them all on TV.”

Gosselin and his brother, Matt, were in the upper deck at Citizens Bank Park the night Alex Rodriguez belted a controversial home run off a television camera in Game 3 of the 2009 World Series. A few years later, as a rookie member of the Atlanta Braves, he had to remind himself to focus on the game and not get caught up in the fact he was standing between Ryan Howard and Chase Utley. Scott Rolen was his all-time favorite player. As a kid growing up in Chester County, he had a mini locker in his bedroom with Darren Daulton’s nameplate on it.

“In a roundabout way, the Phillies are the reason I’m here,” he said in the team’s clubhouse Tuesday morning. “They’re the reason I fell in love with baseball.”

Gosselin was thrilled when his agent, Barry Meister, called over the winter and said the Phillies were interested in signing him to a minor-league deal and giving him a look in spring training. Sure, there was the attraction of having the opportunity to wear the uniform of his boyhood dreams. But there was more than that.

“I wanted to go to the team with the best opportunity and I felt like this it,” Gosselin said. “The Phillies are trying to win now. I think I’ve been around a little bit and I can help doing some of the stuff off the bench, bouncing around and things like that. So I think they’re more likely to give somebody like me an opportunity than maybe a 20-year-old prospect just because they’re trying to win now, as opposed to a team that is in rebuild mode and is going to choose a guy they drafted and is younger.”

The Phillies typically go with an eight-man bullpen which leaves just four bench jobs. One of them will go to a backup catcher, Andrew Knapp or Drew Butera, and one will go to super-utility man Scott Kingery. Roman Quinn, Nick Williams and Aaron Altherr are the lead candidates for what looks like two extra outfield jobs, but Quinn is down with an oblique strain and might not be ready for opening day. In addition to Gosselin, the Phils have veteran infielders/outfielders Sean Rodriguez, Gregorio Petit, Andrew Romine and Gift Ngoepe in camp on minor-league deals looking for jobs.

Good thing that Gosselin, who can also play corner outfield spots, has learned to just go out and play and not stress about roster machinations.

Gosselin does not have an out in his contract at the end of camp. If he has to open the season at Lehigh Valley, he will go there and keep reaching for his dream of one day being in the big leagues with the team of his boyhood dreams.

“Obviously, we all want to be in the big leagues, but if you’re going to be in Triple A, that’s as good a spot as any, especially for me because it’s close to home,” Gosselin said.

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Phillies get mugged in Miami — their inability to beat bad teams could prove fatal to playoff hopes

Phillies get mugged in Miami — their inability to beat bad teams could prove fatal to playoff hopes

MIAMI — How does this happen? How do the Phillies manage to sweep formidable clubs like the Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox (in Fenway Park, no less) and stumble against teams like the Chicago White Sox, San Diego Padres and Miami Marlins in recent weeks?

Obviously, it’s lack of performance, lack of execution, but are there other factors, like, possibly, a lack of concentration that has led the Phillies to play down to the competition so often?

While you ponder this rhetorical question, keep this in mind: The Phillies open a three-game series against the Pittsburgh Pirates at home on Monday night.

The Pirates are another bad team.

That’s good for the Phillies, who desperately need wins over the final 33 games.

It’s also bad for the Phillies, who in recent weeks have lost series to the White Sox, Padres and Marlins.

The latest fall-on-your face performance was capped Sunday in a 3-2 loss to the Marlins, who are 47-82, last in the NL East.

The Marlins mugged Aaron Nola for three runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to take the lead moments after Rhys Hoskins had belted a two-run homer to put the Phillies on top. Nola had retired 11 straight batters before giving up a one-out double, a walk, an RBI single and a two-run double in the sixth. It was a shocking implosion by the Phillies’ ace and his mates, playing without Bryce Harper (paternity leave) for a third straight day, produced just four hits on the day so there was no bailing him out.

“He was cruising,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “He lost a little command in the sixth. Sometimes even the best pitchers lose command and that's enough.”

Nola, who had held Boston’s thundering offense to two runs in seven innings in his previous start, did not have his best fastball.

“I didn’t really feel like I had my fastball early in the game,” he said. “I was pulling it a lot. My changeup was working today. It was the only thing really working today.”

The Phillies won two in Boston on this trip then lost two of three in Miami. They scored 11 runs on Friday night and still lost. That’s because they blew a 7-0 lead.

If the Phils fail to make the playoffs, they will look back to their performance against the Marlins as the reason why. The Phils are 7-9 against Miami. Atlanta is 15-4 against the Marlins. The Mets are 11-4. Washington is 10-3.

Sunday's loss left the Phils 1½ games back in the wild-card race.

“It’s very frustrating,” Hoskins said. “You often hear you’re playing against yourself, right? If we play our game, we obviously can beat any team. We swept the Cubs, we swept the Red Sox on the road. Yeah, it’s tough. This is just a different place to play here. Credit to those guys. They came up with some big hits in some big situations off Noles and they … I don’t really have much more to say.”

Kapler, already agitated by Cesar Hernandez' lack of hustle in the game, was also at a loss for words when asked about his team’s struggles against the Marlins.

“Whatever the reason, we have to find a way to win these baseball games,” he said.

So, how do the Phillies avoid a similar letdown against the Pirates, who are 11-30 since the All-Star break? How do they do it without having Nola go to the mound in the series? Surely, Harper's return should help.

“We remind them how good they are, how much they're capable of, how much confidence we have in them,” Kapler said. “Everybody in the clubhouse knows that it's all of our responsibilities to step up to the plate and be stronger and be better.”

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Will Cesar Hernandez hear it from Philly fans after 'totally unacceptable' lack of hustle?

Will Cesar Hernandez hear it from Philly fans after 'totally unacceptable' lack of hustle?

MIAMI — The Phillies return home to Citizens Bank Park on Monday night.

Cesar Hernandez will probably get a painfully warm Philadelphia greeting from the fans.

“Yeah, I expect,” he said.

Hernandez was not the reason that the Phillies lost two of three over the weekend in Miami. He was not the reason they lost the series finale, 3-2, on Sunday afternoon. In fact, he scored one of the team’s runs after a two-out single in the sixth inning.

But Hernandez was still a major subplot in the loss as what has been a season-long issue for this team reared its head again.

That base hit that Hernandez had in the sixth inning? It should have been a double. He thought the ball was going to be a homer so he did not run hard out of the box. By the time he realized it was going to stay in the park, it was too late to make it to second. It was an egregious mistake in a scoreless game when a base hit could have put a run on the board.

As it turned out, Rhys Hoskins got Hernandez off the hook with a two-run homer. Hernandez thanked Hoskins for that — twice — once at home plate and once while running out to the field in the bottom of the sixth inning.

Hernandez’ lack of hustle did not sit well with manager Gabe Kapler.

“Totally unacceptable baserunning play,” Kapler said through clenched jaw. “It was addressed on the bench. I had a conversation with Cesar after the game. He understands it's unacceptable. There's no excuse for it. We have some strong veteran leaders in the clubhouse who will address it, as well.”

One day earlier, Kapler had talked about accountability after sending Nick Pivetta to the minors. Kapler said he thought Pivetta needed to be more accountable, to “look in the mirror.”

Hernandez is not the first Phillie to come up short in the hustle department this season. Jean Segura and Maikel Franco were violators. Franco was held accountable with a benching.

Did Kapler consider removing Hernandez from the game?

“It's just an unacceptable base running play,” was Kapler’s answer to that question.

Deciding whether or not to pull Hernandez is a question complicated by the Phils’ place in the standings — they are in a playoff race and need wins — and the fact that they have a weak bench. Would it have been fair to the rest of the team to subtract the starting second baseman (and endure the dropoff in talent) from a game the team needed to win?

“I think it's really important that we bust our asses out of the batter's box,” Kapler said. “We're not sure if the ball is going to go out of the ballpark. It's really important that we give every ounce of energy on that play. Even at the expense of making a bang-bang play at second base. We need a single to score that run. Obviously, Rhys was able to bail us all out. He hit a big home run for us. But we have to find a way to get to second base on that play.”

Hernandez was contrite after the game.

“It was obviously a mistake," he said, "but the thing about this team is that we try to pick each other up. You watched the game and you saw what happened. I was obviously thankful to Rhys that he was able to pick me up there.”

Hoskins said players in the clubhouse hold each other accountable.

He added that Hernandez did not need a strong reprimand.

“Cesar doesn’t need to be talked to,” Hoskins said. “I don’t think he’s someone that doesn’t play the game the right way. He just had a little brain fart. Had a little lapse in judgment. Thank goodness it didn’t hurt us.

“I didn’t say anything to him on the field. He came up to me. That showed everybody he’s accountable. That type of player knows (he made a mistake). My bet is it doesn’t happen again.”

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