The Phillies will not have Rhys Hoskins in their lineup for the rest of the season but they won’t lose his glove as J.T. Realmuto will borrow Hoskins’ first-base mitt whenever he replaces him in the field.
“I have a first baseman’s mitt of my own. It’s just not broken in well enough yet to trust it out there,” said Realmuto, who is scheduled to start at first on Sunday while Hoskins awaits season-ending surgery to repair a tear in his lower abdomen.
Realmuto is expected to play a large chunk of the final 33 games at first base but Realmuto and Joe Girardi said moving the catcher to first is simply a way to keep his bat in the lineup and not a way to protect his sore right shoulder. The Phillies will also use Brad Miller at first base and may try Alec Bohm as the third baseman started Saturday night at first for triple-A Lehigh Valley.
Jean Segura mentioned after Friday’s 7-6 win that Realmuto was dealing with a shoulder issue, which Girardi and Realmuto confirmed but downplayed before Saturday’s game.
“It’s good. It’s just normal everyday wear and tear. Nothing too bad,” Realmuto said.
Girardi said you could take a poll of major-leaguers and a lot of players are “going to be a little beat up.” The injury, Girardi said, is not prohibiting Realmuto from “doing anything.”
“If you play him at first base, you’re getting his bat in there more than if you are catching him three or four days and giving him a day off,” Girardi said.
Rafael Marchan caught Saturday night after joining the team on Friday from triple A when Andrew Knapp was placed on the COVID-19 injured list. Marchan, 22, is a sound defender but had a .485 OPS this season in 57 games for Lehigh Valley. The final stretch of the season could be an audition as the Phillies will likely choose between Knapp and Marchan for next season’s backup to Realmuto. Knapp is hitting just .152 this season with a .431 OPS in 136 plate appearances.
Realmuto said he can not point to a specific moment that caused his shoulder discomfort. He said he feels it “a little bit” when he’s hitting and “sometimes” when he’s throwing “but I don’t think it’s actually affecting my play at all.”
He drove in a pair of runs on Friday night but still entered Saturday hitting just .206 with a .702 OPS in 18 games since August 5. His production at the plate has dipped this month but Realmuto said his shoulder is not to blame.
“I don’t think so. I’m just not getting the job done at the plate,” Realmuto said. “More timing issues and mechanical issues than my shoulder.”
Realmuto has played 203 innings at first base over the last five seasons, including parts of eight games this season. But he hasn’t taken pregame ground balls at first since spring training. Phillies infield coach Juan Castro wanted to work with Realmuto on Friday and Saturday afternoon but the field was covered each day by a tarp. Perhaps he’ll have a chance Sunday morning to get some work before the game. Realmuto might not be a seasoned first baseman, but at least his glove is broken in.
“To be honest with you, I have no idea,” Realmuto said when asked how often he expects to play first. “Because the conversations I’ve had haven’t really been that in depth. It’s more just Joe asked me, would I be willing to play first base so I can be in the lineup more often. I said absolutely.”