Phillies

Phil Gosselin steals the day from Zack Wheeler and Phillies are OK with that

Phillies

The ball landed in the right field seats. Phil Gosselin floated euphorically around the bases and returned to the dugout where air high-fives were plentiful.

Teammate Jay Bruce offered his congratulations and asked Gosselin if he'd ever had a multi-homer game before in the big leagues.

"I think I just laughed in his face," Gosselin said.

If Bruce had Gosselin's bubblegum card, he'd know that the very likable utility infielder from West Chester, Malvern Prep and the University of Virginia was not known for his power. Gosselin woke up Saturday morning with just seven homers in 597 career big-league at-bats.

By dinner time, he had nine.

Yes, this was a day of firsts for the 2020 Phillies.

They picked up their first win of the new season, 7-1, over the Miami Marlins.

New manager Joe Girardi earned his first win with the club.

Zack Wheeler made his first start with his new team. He pitched great and got the win.

Bryce Harper had his first hit of the new season, a bunt single against an infield shift, and that preceded J.T. Realmuto's first hit of the season, a mammoth three-run homer off the batter's eye in centerfield.

But the most fun first of the day belonged to the unassuming Gosselin, who got his first start as the designated hitter and powered two homers, a tie-breaking, two-run shot in the sixth inning, and a solo shot in the eighth.

 

Bruce wasn't the only teammate who was happy about Gosselin's first multi-homer game.

They all were.

"We call him 'Barrels' for a reason," Realmuto said. "That guy can hit. We were glad to see what he did. He's a great guy, really easy to root for."

Gosselin is in his 11th season of pro ball. He's gotten time with five big-league clubs, including 44 games with the Phillies last season.

He returned to the organization on a minor-league deal over the winter because, well, it's the Phillies. He grew up rooting for the team and if he didn't make the big club he'd be close to home in Allentown, where the Triple A club plays.

"I had some good interest, maybe a handful of teams I was talking to," Gosselin said. "I just felt like the staff, I know Joe is new, but most of the staff was back. They had spoken to me and told me they liked me as a player, and I knew they would call me up if I was playing well and there was a need because they did it last year. So, the familiarity helped. I haven't been on the same team back-to-back years in like six years so it's nice to come back to a spot where I know people and I'm comfortable."

Gosselin had to fight like heck to make the club. In fact, he was the last man on the expanded 30-man roster.

"I can't imagine the stress he was feeling that last week," Realmuto said. "I'm sure he was relieved to make the team and then in his first start hit two homers. That was huge for us."

Girardi concurred.

"This was a big win," he said. "We talk about winning series. If we don't win this game today, we don't have an opportunity to do that (Sunday)."

Gosselin made the club with a flurry of hits — "He was like 24 for 12," Girardi said — in the final week of intrasquad and exhibition games. There was no way the Phillies could keep him off the roster.

"Those two weeks had everything to do with it," Girardi said of the decision to keep Gosselin.

With lefty Caleb Smith on the mound for Miami, Bruce, the regular DH, got the day off Saturday. Girardi decided to go to the hot bat and Gosselin reached base four times with a walk, a single and two homers.

"He made me look smart today," Girardi said.

"I'm just trying to hit the ball hard and hope they fall," Gosselin said. 

Back in the clubhouse after the game, Gosselin checked his phone. Text-message mania. 

"Just about 300 or so," he said. "I haven't even begun to look through them. It's cool to see the support. It's a lot of my high school buddies, friends and family. It's cool when everybody is pulling for you."

Of course they're pulling for Gosselin. He's a local guy. His pals are Phillies fans and the Phils are the only show in town right now. We're still in the midst of a pandemic, you know. Hence the air high-fives.

 

Gosselin is a level-headed guy hardened by years of trying to make clubs as an extra man. He's never come to a camp and been guaranteed a job. So, deep down, he knows he's still essentially on a tryout. Rosters will shrink by two spots in two weeks and two more spots in a month.

But if he keeps having days like he did Saturday, he'll stick around.

"I'm really happy that Joe gave me a start early on to keep it rolling," Gosselin said. "I know in the beginning of the year it can be tough. Sometimes when you're a bench guy you'll sit and not get the consistent at-bats, so it was nice to get four in a day today and help the team out.

"This has been awesome and I'm just trying to soak it in. It's my 11th year. You never know how long it's going to last. You never know if you'll play for your hometown team again. So, you just enjoy every moment of it and try to help the team make the playoffs.

"That would be awesome. I watched all those World Series caliber teams as a fan, so to be in the postseason with the Phillies would be crazy."

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