Rhys Hoskins thinks people are sleeping on the Phillies.
"We've played some pretty good baseball in these exhibition games," he said Tuesday night. "We've seen a lot of really good things in intrasquad games, too. We could talk about Vinny (Velasquez) and the way that he's looked over these last couple of weeks as something that stands out.
"I think we're feeling pretty confident. I think still, at least nationally, we're being overlooked a little bit. I think you couple that as a chip on our shoulder with the confidence that we have in the clubhouse and I think it's going to allow for us to have a pretty good season."
That season, a 60-game sprint, begins Friday night against the Miami Marlins at Citizens Bank Park.
Aaron Nola will start his third straight opener for the Phillies. Right-hander Sandy Alcantara will go for the Marlins. He will be followed by lefty Caleb Smith and righty Jose Urena in the three-game series.
The Phillies' rotation after Nola is in flux because scheduled No. 2 starter Zack Wheeler is on baby watch as he and his wife get set for the arrival of their first child. If Wheeler can't go Saturday, the Phils will have to do some juggling. Velasquez and Jake Arrieta appear set to take turns in the rotation the first time through. Zach Eflin's status could be determined after he throws a simulated game Thursday. He has been slowed by a balky back. Nick Pivetta, who pitched in an intrasquad game on Tuesday night, remains in the mix for a first-week start, depending on the availability of others.
Spencer Howard also pitched on Tuesday night. He could be in line to join the rotation during the second week of the season.
Howard pitched four innings. He allowed a hit and a run, walked one and struck out four.
"He was good," manager Joe Girardi said. “His changeup is really effective. His fastball is sneaky -- easy delivery and it comes out at you really well. We’re excited about him."
Hoskins had a difficult night. He was hitless in six at-bats. (He took a couple of extra at-bats late in the game.) He struck out three times but did line out hard to the left field wall.
"He just wanted some extra at-bats," Girardi said. "He'll DH (in the final intrasquad game) tomorrow."
Hoskins is a big key for the Phillies, an X factor in the batting order. He struggled mightily in the second half of last season, hitting just .180 after the All-Star break. If the Phillies are to be the team that Hoskins believes they can be, he will need to be a big producer somewhere in that mid-order pack of bats that includes Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto, Jay Bruce and Didi Gregorius.
Working with new hitting coach Joe Dillon, Hoskins spent the winter making changes in his setup at the plate. He lowered his hands and opened his stance a little.
Recently, however, Hoskins has raised his hands from where they were back in February and March in Clearwater.
"It was well-documented in the offseason that I experimented with some changes in my setup," Hoskins said. "I thought it was going well in the spring but then the pandemic hit and I was unable to get live reps. Since we’ve gotten back, it’s turned into more of a hybrid between those changes and what I’ve done in the past."
Hoskins said the recent adjustment was about getting “a good feel” at the plate.
"I found myself getting a little bit too mechanical in some of these intrasquad and exhibition games," he said. "I talked with Joe Dillon and the rest of the staff, and we thought that the work we had done over the past five or six months was really going to help with something I was already familiar with, so I think we'll see the adjustments kind of form into a little bit of a hybrid.
"Right now, I'm feeling pretty good. I'm feeling pretty comfortable with it. I feel strong in the box. I feel like I'm seeing the ball well. Try to swing at strikes and go from there."
Hoskins will look to finish summer camp strong on Wednesday night.
Thursday is an off day, save for Eflin’s throwing a simulated game. Friday is showtime.
Rosters must be turned in by Thursday noontime. Utility infielder Phil Gosselin is making a strong push to be on the roster. He had four hits Tuesday night and is 7 for 7 over his last four games.
"What he's done hasn’t gone unnoticed," Girardi said.
Teammates have begun calling Gosselin "Barrels" because, well, he's been barreling everything lately. His chances of making the club improved late Tuesday night when the club announced that Josh Harrison, another utility player on a non-roster contract, asked for and was granted his release.
One final note: Jean Segura, hit on the hand by a pitch Monday night, is fine. An X-ray was negative. He took batting practice and worked in the infield before the game.
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