If the Phillies are going to rally to make the playoffs for the first time since 2011, they will have to do it without Rhys Hoskins.
Hoskins, who leads the team with 27 home runs, said Thursday he likely will undergo surgery “soon” to repair a tear in his lower abdomen that occurred earlier in the season and predated the left groin strain that recently sidelined him for 18 of 21 games, including 14 in a row.
“I don’t think I’ll be playing at all for the rest of the year,” Hoskins said before the Phillies opened a four-game series against the Arizona Diamondbacks. “It’s frustrating, man. It stinks. It stinks.”
The Phillies put Hoskins back on the injured list earlier in the day and ordered an MRI exam after he tweaked the injuries while moving for a ball to his right in the fourth inning Wednesday night. General manager Sam Fuld said the test results showed that the groin injury — and a preexisting lower-abdominal tear, similar to a sports hernia, that neither Hoskins nor the team revealed previously — “regressed a little bit” and reinforced how limited he would be in trying to play through it.
Although Brad Miller started at first base against the Diamondbacks, manager Joe Girardi and Fuld said the team hadn’t decided how to replace Hoskins for the rest of the season. Neither would say if recently demoted Alec Bohm is a candidate to be recalled from triple-A Lehigh Valley to play first, but that would seem to be a likely possibility.
“There’s some different things that we’re thinking about,” Girardi said. “I’m just going to leave it at that.”
Hoskins said he has dealt with the lower-abdominal tear — “Really low-level, low-grade stuff when it first started,” he said — for most of the season. He said it “progressed exponentially” over the last few weeks, especially after he strained his groin while diving awkwardly for a ball in a July 29 game against the Washington Nationals at Citizens Bank Park.
The abdominal tear was eventually going to require offseason surgery no matter what, according to Hoskins, so team doctors and athletic trainers determined he couldn’t do additional long-term damage by trying to play through the groin strain. There was a risk, though, that he could aggravate the injuries, so when the Phillies reinstated him from the injured list last Sunday, it came with the stipulation that he wouldn’t be able to play every day.
Hoskins joked recently that he would hit only home runs to avoid having to run the bases at full speed, a plan that he nearly executed by going deep in three of nine plate appearances since returning to the lineup. But it became clear that moving around in the field was going to be a problem.
If the National League had the designated hitter, would Hoskins have been able to gut it out for 36 more games?
“I could tell you there would’ve been a lot of effort to do that, yeah,” he said. “The way that [Wednesday]night went, you could kind of see there were limitations that I had kind of moving laterally or just kind of moving around in general. But it never really hurt to hit. That was the dilemma that we had, right? The risk of moving around in the field versus the reward of what could happen in the box.”
If Hoskins goes ahead with surgery, he was told the recovery time would be 6-8 weeks. If he has the procedure in September, he could have a relatively normal offseason in preparation for spring training. He said he doesn’t typically start hitting until Christmas anyway.
“I think the timing of it lends you the ability to be more patient and diligent with that,” Hoskins said. “It will really just be making sure everything is tuned up and moving correctly, which at that point is kind of what we’d [normally] be doing.”
Hoskins’ recent absence only reinforced his importance to the Phillies’ offense.
Despite his tendency for extreme streakiness, he represents their best right-handed counterweight to lefty-swinging Bryce Harper. Since July 29, the Phillies have averaged 3.4 runs per game in 19 games with Hoskins on the bench or the injured list. Overall, they are averaging 4.4 runs per game.
Hoskins, who is eligible for salary arbitration again next season, leads the Phillies in several offensive categories, including doubles (29), homers (27), and RBIs (71). He ranks second to Harper in slugging (.530) and OPS (.864) despite a .334 on-base percentage, the lowest of his career.
“In his return, we’ve seen how valuable he is, how much he does to our lineup, and how much production he brings as well,” Fuld said. “It’s disappointing, it’s frustrating, and I feel for Rhys because I know he’s played through a lot of pain and he’s grinded through a lot of things just to be able to put himself back out there.”
It marks the second year in a row that Hoskins will end the season on the injured list. Last season, he missed the final 17 games with an elbow injury that necessitated surgery.
“Frustrating, upsetting,” Hoskins said. “I think just the magnitude of where we are as a team with the time of year, right? As a player, as a competitor you want to be able to be out there and help your team as much as you can. Unfortunately, sometimes the body just doesn’t respond.”