Vierling has a big day against his former team as Walker, Hoskins, Abel debut


CLEARWATER, Fla. -- A couple of important Phillies made their first appearances of the spring Friday against the Tigers.

Rhys Hoskins, who had offseason surgery on his right meniscus and had been ramping up slower than the Phillies' other position players in camp, started as the designated hitter. He singled twice and walked.

Hoskins will have Saturday off and will start at first base Sunday.

Starting pitcher Taijuan Walker made his first Grapefruit League start with the Phils, pitching into the third inning. His first two frames were scoreless before he allowed a pair of runs in the third. 

Walker is the first Phillies starter to pitch into the third inning so far this spring. He and Ranger Suarez are on different programs than the rest of the rotation because they are leaving early next week to participate in the World Baseball Classic. Walker will pitch for Mexico, Suarez for Venezuela.

"I felt good about it, he came out clean," manager Rob Thomson said of Walker's first outing.

The first run Walker allowed Friday came on an RBI single by new Tigers center fielder Matt Vierling. The Phils traded Vierling and utilityman Nick Maton to Detroit on January 7 for Gregory Soto, the left-handed former Tigers closer. 

Soto has still not arrived in Clearwater for spring training because of visa issues leaving the Dominican Republic. Soto was supposed to pitch in the WBC for the Dominican Republic but may not because the Phillies need him to get time in camp, particularly with the new pitch clock.


Vierling finds himself in a good spot with the Tigers with a chance to play everyday. He's started the spring hot, going 6 for 11 with two homers. He also stole a base Friday off of J.T. Realmuto.

Mick Abel, the Phillies' No. 2-ranked prospect behind Andrew Painter, also pitched in his first big-league spring training game Friday. He put two men aboard with one out on a single and a walk before inducing an inning-ending double play. Abel has flown under the radar this spring with all the attention on Painter, whom the Phils drafted in the first round the year after they selected Abel. 

The Phillies revealed a bit of ominous news Friday -- Painter is undergoing tests on a "tender" right elbow. More information is expected Saturday.

Abel is likely to begin the year in the upper minor leagues. He made his final five starts last season at Double A Reading, pitching to a 3.52 ERA with 27 strikeouts in 23 innings.