LOS ANGELES – It looked pretty bad. Rhys Hoskins swung at a 95 mph, Kenley Jansen fastball that was running in on him. The ball hit the bat and caught some of Hoskins’ arm before finally smashing him in the mouth.
Hoskins went down, bleeding from the mouth and left the field with the assistance of an athletic trainer.
Moments after the incident provided injury to an insulting 5-4, Phillies’ loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Monday night, manager Gabe Kapler offered an update on Hoskins.
“He has a big, fat cut on the inside of his bottom lip,” Kapler said. “He’s getting evaluated. I don’t have anything definitive beyond that. I’m not overly concerned at this point. He just has a big cut on his lip.”
It sounded as if Hoskins dodged a bullet.
Will he play Tuesday night?
“I want to see how he's feeling,” Kapler said. “But, if he's feeling like he's healthy enough to play and there is no risk to him playing, he's always going to be one of our best options.”
Hoskins was not available for comment after the game in which the Phillies blew a two-run lead in the eighth inning.
Even though he left the game with the count 1-2, Hoskins was charged with a strikeout when his replacement, Pedro Florimon, went down in the ninth inning Monday night. Hoskins finished the game with three strikeouts and is now hitting .151 with a .245 on-base percentage and a .279 slugging percentage in 99 plate appearances in the month of May.
“I think it's reasonable to say that Rhys has gone through some tough challenges recently, but I don't worry about him at all," Kapler said. "I think he's as tough mentally as we have on our club. I have a tremendous amount of faith in his mental toughness and his physical capability. That never wavers. There is no doubt in my mind things are going to turn around for Rhys and he's going to take off.”
Hoskins has hit in the No. 2 hole in the lineup in 18 games this month.
Slump or no slump, it sounds as if he’ll stay there.
“We still want - and still’s actually not even a relevant word - we want one our best hitters in the two hole and Rhys is one of our best hitters,” Kapler said. “That’s how we look at it every single day.”
Hoskins hit .303 with a .457 on-base percentage and a .528 slugging percentage in 116 plate appearances in the first month of the season.
“Just to be fair, if you’re looking at the first 100 plate appearances, you have to look at the second 100, too,” Kapler said. “We still think Rhys is an excellent hitter and one of the best offensive performers in the league and will be going forward. For that reason, we want that profile in the two hole.”
Kapler has stated many times that he believes the Nos. 2 and 4 spots are the most important in the lineup. Carlos Santana hit second throughout the first month of the season and struggled. He has spent the month of May hitting in the four and five spots and his bat has come alive with six doubles, a triple and seven homers during the month. So it behooves the Phillies to keep Santana right where he is. That means more time at No. 2 for Hoskins.
Dropping a struggling hitter in the lineup can sometimes ease pressure on that player. But it could also wound the player’s confidence. Kapler is reluctant to do that. But most of all, his decision to stick with Hoskins as his two-hitter comes down what he believes will give the Phillies the best chance to win.
“Yes,” said Kapler, acknowledging that he takes into consideration a player’s confidence. “I also think this is the best baseball decision for the Phillies, for Rhys to be in the two hole or the four hole. It’s really important.”