Mitch Walding

Phillies call up shortstop Sean Rodriguez, who's known for his competitive fire

Phillies call up shortstop Sean Rodriguez, who's known for his competitive fire

NEW YORK — All signs point to Jean Segura returning to the Phillies on Saturday, but in the meantime, the Phils have another shortstop: Sean Rodriguez.

Rodriguez was called up from Triple A on Wednesday, two days before his 34th birthday. He will immediately get the start at shortstop for the Phillies, batting seventh on Wednesday night against Mets left-hander Jason Vargas.

Rodriguez's call-up was one of several roster moves the Phillies made ahead of their series finale in New York. Right-handed pitcher Enyel De Los Santos was also recalled from Triple A, while Mitch Walding and Drew Anderson were optioned back to Lehigh Valley. 

Additionally, left-handed reliever James Pazos was designated for assignment. Acquired in the Segura trade with Seattle, Pazos wasn't sharp in spring training and had a rough go with the IronPigs, allowing six runs and seven walks in 7⅓ innings.

The Phillies have had to utilize more of their 40-man roster than they would have liked these last two weeks. Scott Kingery was Segura's replacement, but then Kingery suffered a hamstring injury of his own. The next man up was Phil Gosselin, who had two singles in his Phillies debut last Friday and a three-run double Saturday but is 0 for 12 since. Gosselin also committed a throwing error in the first inning of Tuesday night's loss.

Enter Rodriguez, who last season in the majors played every position except pitcher and catcher. He's spent most of his career as a bench utilityman but had a lot of success in 2016 as a platoon player with the Pirates, hitting .270/.349/.510 with 18 homers and 56 RBI in just 342 plate appearances.

Even through his struggles the last two seasons, Rodriguez has more than held his own against left-handed pitching. Since 2016, he has a .384 OBP against lefties, which you'd think factored into the timing of this call-up. The Phillies face the lefty Vargas on Wednesday and another southpaw in Caleb Smith Thursday. 

Rodriguez, who's tight with Andrew McCutchen and thrilled to again share a clubhouse with him, had an opt-out in his contract if he didn't make the team out of spring training but decided to stay in the organization and accept the role at Triple A. 

"I'm in it to win," he said. "That's what I told (Gabe) Kapler and (Matt) Klentak. It was clear this offseason this team was trying to win."

Rodriguez had been hitting for power at Triple A, going 11 for 25 with four homers, a triple, two doubles and 12 RBI in his last six games before Tuesday night. Despite that and the Phillies' growing injured list, he tried his best to not sit by his phone and await the call.

"We can try to play GM but I learned a long time ago not to do that," he said. "You obviously see the injuries and all that but you don't buy into it, you just try to show up every day and do your job on a daily basis."

Rodriguez is perhaps best-known for his fire and competitiveness in the field, on the bases and in the dugout. He's the consummate good teammate, the kind of guy who's usually the first one out when benches begin to clear in a situation like the Phillies experienced Tuesday night when two fastballs were thrown above Rhys Hoskins' head.

He has no intentions of dialing that back as he gets reacclimated to the group of guys he spent spring training with.

"I think if you've identified pretty early on that's who you are as a player and competitor, it's hard not to just continue to be that guy," he said. "If you're not, then you're almost taking yourself and your competitive nature and putting it aside. Basically, you're putting it in the closet. You don't want to do that. 

"If that's who you are, that's who you are. You learn to somewhat not let the rage come out in a bad or negative way. That's what you try to harness and buffer up a bit. But definitely not turning it off."

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If Rhys Hoskins is back in left field next season, 'I don’t blink an eye'

If Rhys Hoskins is back in left field next season, 'I don’t blink an eye'

BOX SCORE

Rhys Hoskins made his third start of the season at first base for the Phillies on Friday night and helped the club post a rousing 14-2 win (see first take) with his team-leading 31st homer.

All but dead in the NL East race, the Phillies can afford to use the final 2½ weeks of the season to get a read on a handful of players heading into next season (see story).

It was interesting to see Hoskins at first base because it is his natural position and there has been some recent rumble that the Phillies could consider trading Carlos Santana in the offseason and moving Hoskins back to first base.

How would Hoskins feel about moving back to first base full time?

“Of course, I would like to go back there,” he said after the game. “I’ve played that position forever.

“But do I want to go back there? I don’t care. I honestly don’t. I told Gabe (Kapler) this from the get-go. As long as I get to hit, I don’t care where I play. I really don’t.”

So if Hoskins is back in left field next year?

“I don’t blink an eye,” he said.

An emerging leader

Yes, Hoskins is this team’s leader, but at age 25 and with only a year of big-league service time, he is still growing into the role. The best is yet to come. The team-first attitude displayed in the above comments is why he could someday be a special leader.

Lineup clicks

The Phillies snapped a five-game losing streak with an 18-hit attack that included five home runs. Kapler loaded the lineup with righty bats against lefty Wei-Yin Chen. That was a big reason for using Hoskins at first and Santana at third. It allowed for another righty bat, Aaron Altherr, in left field. He had his best night of the season with two homers, two singles, five RBIs and a great second-to-home dash to score a run in the fourth.

“Gabe wanted to get as many right-handed bats as possible in the lineup,” Hoskins said. “A lot of (using Hoskins at first) was to get Altherr in there. Kap played the right card.”

Return of the heat

Zach Eflin lasted just three innings and gave up six runs in his previous start against the Mets. He gave up a hit to Jay Bruce on a fastball in the second inning of that game then stayed away from his fastball and relied on his slider. That pitch was hit hard.

Eflin went back to featuring his hard, four-seam fastball in this game and pitched 6 1/3 innings of one-run ball for the win. He got the fastball up to 96.8 mph.

“He looks best when he’s stepping on that four-seam fastball and utilizing it frequently,” Kapler said. "That's the pitch that will make him great."

Speed kills 

Centerfielder Roman Quinn was back in the lineup, stealing playing time from inconsistent Odubel Herrera. Quinn’s broken toe is clearly feeling better. He used his outstanding speed to beat out a potential double-play ball that resulted in two runs. He also had an infield hit. And a home run. With 16 games left, he should get a lot of playing time as he auditions for a big role in 2019.

A sight of relief 

Rookie Mitch Walding was hitless with 10 strikeouts in 14 at-bats with the big club this season. He won’t go hitless for the season, thanks to a two-run homer in the eighth inning. 

So what that it came against Bryan Holaday, the Marlins’ backup catcher, on a 61-mph breaking ball? Walding is off the schneid.

“Probably one of the happiest moments I've ever had in my life,” he said.

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Phillies 14, Marlins 2: First impressions after a big night by Aaron Altherr

Phillies 14, Marlins 2: First impressions after a big night by Aaron Altherr

BOX SCORE

The struggling Phillies enjoyed a cathartic 14-2 win over the Miami Marlins at Citizens Bank Park on Friday night.

The Phillies had 18 hits, including five home runs.

Aaron Altherr had his best game of the season with a two-run homer, a three-run homer and two singles. He scored three runs and made a terrific base running play.

Where they stand

The win snapped a five-game losing streak and was just the Phillies’ third in the last 11 games.

They entered the game on life support in the NL East race, 7½ games behind first-place Atlanta.

The Phillies are four games over .500 with 16 to play.

Lineup clicks

Manager Gabe Kapler went heavy on right-handed bats against Marlins lefty Wei-Yin Chen. That’s why Altherr was in the lineup playing left field.

Yes, Rhys Hoskins was in the lineup. He started at first base – his natural position – for just the third time this season. Carlos Santana started at third.

Could Hoskins’ assignment at first have been a harbinger of things to come? Could he be back at first base next season? Phillies officials have discussed it (see story).

Power display

Hoskins, Roman Quinn and Mitch Walding also homered for the Phillies. Walding’s homer was his first big-league hit.

Nice rebound

Zach Eflin, who lasted only three innings in his previous outing, delivered 6 1/3 innings of one-run ball.

Energy and confidence

Altherr played with energy and confidence. You could see both when he made a terrific base-running play, scoring from second base as Quinn was beating out a potential double-play ball that would have ended the fourth inning. You don’t make that play without energy, confidence, a lead on the scoreboard – and plenty of speed and athleticism. Not only did Altherr exhibit his speed, he made an athletic slide to get by catcher J.T. Realmuto’s tag. 

Roman returns

Quinn returned to the lineup – in center field — nine days after suffering a broken toe on his right foot in Miami. He had a big game. In addition to beating out the potential double play that resulted in two RBIs in the fourth, he hit a laser-beam homer to left in the second inning.

Quinn has three doubles, three triples and two homers in his last 13 starts. He has stolen playing time from inconsistent Odubel Herrera. It’s not difficult to envision Quinn being this team’s starting centerfielder at the start of next season.

If he can stay healthy. 

That has always been a challenge. 

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