When the Phillies put Rhys Hoskins on the injured list Monday, they crossed their fingers and hoped that he will be sidelined for only 10 days.
But what if the slugging first baseman misses 10 months?
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It’s the worst-case scenario, to be sure, but until the Phillies get a more complete diagnosis of Hoskins' strained left elbow, they can’t rule out the possibility that he will need Tommy John surgery, a procedure that is less common among position players but also typically carries a shorter recovery time than it does for pitchers.
The injury, which occurred in the eighth inning Saturday night in Miami, involves the ulnar collateral ligament in Hoskins' non-throwing arm. When torn, it’s the ligament that often requires Tommy John surgery in pitchers. Hoskins was scheduled to see the doctors before Tuesday night’s game.
“I don’t know if they’ll make a decision right away,” manager Joe Girardi said. “I have not been told that he necessarily [would need surgery], but he has another appointment to continue to evaluate.”
At the earliest, Hoskins isn’t eligible to return until Sept. 23, with four games left in the regular season. There’s a chance, according to Girardi, that Hoskins could play through the injury, although he would need to have enough strength in his arm to grip and swing a bat.
Girardi noted that Los Angeles Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani continued to hit despite spraining his right UCL in 2018. But Ohtani missed nearly a month of that season before returning. Hoskins doesn’t have that much time.
Although pitchers usually miss 12 to 15 months after Tommy John surgery, position players can make it back in roughly half the time. Phillies shortstop Didi Gregorius had the procedure on his non-throwing elbow after the 2018 season with the New York Yankees and was back in seven months.
In Hoskins' absence, the Phillies have a few first-base options, including rookie third baseman Alec Bohm, who moved across the infield Tuesday night. Bohm started 23 games at first base in the minor leagues but has said he’s more comfortable at third.
“I do think it is important that you can put him at third as much as you can, but we may not be in that situation now,” Girardi said. “In this game, sometimes you have to get out of your comfort zone. What I’ve seen from Alec, though, is he’s handled everything we’ve put in front of him.”
One day after testing the mangled nail on his right middle finger with a 41-pitch bullpen session, Zack Wheeler played catch and was cleared to start Wednesday night opposite Mets ace Jacob deGrom.
Wheeler ripped the nail from the skin bed while putting on a pair of jeans last week and was unable to pitch during the recently completed series in Miami. The Phillies are being careful not to rush him back, because losing the nail would almost certainly end his season.
Asked about the condition of Wheeler’s nail, Girardi said he hasn’t looked at it.
“I get a little queasy when I see that stuff,” Girardi said. “But the trainer said it looks good now. He said, ‘Do you want to see it?’ I said, ‘No, I’m good.'”
By bumping Aaron Nola to Thursday night, he could line up to start the season finale on Sept. 27 at Tampa Bay.
J.T. Realmuto missed his fourth consecutive game because of a strained left hip flexor. But the Phillies have not placed their All-Star catcher on the injured list, believing he might be able to resume playing before a 10-day stint on the injury list would expire.
Could Realmuto be used in a pinch-hitting situation?
“It’s something that I want to continue to discuss with our trainers,” said Girardi, who noted that Realmuto could be lifted for a pinch-runner if he reached base. “It’s something I’m definitely looking into.”
Realmuto is eligible for free agency after the season. After a torrid start, he’s batting .267 with an .883 OPS and leads all catchers with 11 home runs.
Asked what has impressed him most about managing Realmuto this season, Girardi gushed.
“Wow, there’s so much,” he said. “I think his durability is incredible. He’s nicked up now. A lot of times players are really gifted, but J.T. is really gifted and the preparation is outstanding. His homework that he does on how to get opposing hitters out, his homework that he does on when he can run and steal bases, who he goes from first to third on, studying the opposing pitcher that he’s facing that day. He’s really an amazing athlete when I sit down and look at it.”