As Phillies manager Joe Girardi begins jotting down potential opening-day lineups, he can probably scribble first baseman Rhys Hoskins’ name in ink.
After participating in the Phillies’ first full-squad workout Monday, Hoskins said he has been “medically cleared” for all spring training activities after having surgery in October to repair the ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow.
“As long as I can get the amount of at-bats that I’m used to during spring, which should be no problem, I don’t think opening day is out of the picture,” Hoskins said. “Everything’s pretty much normalized, strength-wise. Now it’s just about getting the reps I need in spring.”
Hoskins has been hitting, first off a tee then eventually progressing to batting practice pitching, for about seven weeks. The final step to being cleared came Monday when he tested his elbow by diving for balls at first base.
The injury, which occurred when Hoskins tried to tag the Marlins’ Corey Dickerson on Sept. 12 in Miami, caused him to miss the season’s final 17 games. He was the Phillies’ hottest hitter at the time, too, slugging .622 with 10 home runs in 25 games before getting injured.
Hoskins didn’t report any restrictions in batting practice Monday, even saying that he “let it fly a little bit just to kind of make sure that it was still in there.”
“Honestly, I feel normal,” he said. “That’s pretty encouraging going forward. Feel normal. It’s a good place to be.”
Said Girardi: “Where Rhys is at, at this time, I am thrilled. He has done everything he really needs to do. I think he looks great.”
Rhys: Odúbel must ‘earn our trust back’
If, over the next five weeks, Odúbel Herrera plays his way from the depths of mini-camp into contention for the Phillies’ center-field job, would he be welcomed back into the clubhouse after his May 2019 arrest on domestic violence charges?
“I wish I had a crystal ball,” said Hoskins, the Phillies’ representative in the MLB Players Association. “Everyone’s going to react different to a situation like this, right? Maybe some guys have something like this in their past and it cuts a little bit deeper. Some guys may also believe that everybody deserves a second chance if they’ve proven that they’re willing to move on. I don’t know how it’s going to play out.”
Hoskins said he believes Herrera is “in a good place right now” after speaking with him over the last few days. He also noted that Herrera last spring was in minor-league camp, an expanded version of this year’s COVID-reduced mini-camp. The 29-year-old former All-Star hasn’t played in nearly two years either.
But Herrera likely will get at-bats in Grapefruit League games. And if he plays well enough, he could nudge his way into a wide-open center-field competition alongside Adam Haseley, Roman Quinn, and Scott Kingery.
“I don’t think anybody would condone what happened a couple years ago,” Hoskins said. “Everyone knows he’s going to have to earn that clubhouse’s trust back. I think he knows that as well. He needs to play and make the team, but we’re just going to try to focus on seeing what he can do to earn our trust back and let the chips fall where they may.”
Eight players didn’t participate in the first full-squad workout. Most absentees, including shortstop Didi Gregorius, were dealing with visa issues. Bryce Harper is in Clearwater but wasn’t at the workout because he was still completing his COVID-19 intake screening. ... Alec Bohm looks bigger, according to Girardi, who said the 24-year-old third baseman is “starting to fill out.” ... Girardi said the Phillies likely will open the season with an eight-man bullpen. Archie Bradley and Héctor Neris are locks. That would leave six spots to be filled from among a group that includes newcomers José Alvarado and Sam Coonrod, youngsters JoJo Romero and Connor Brogdon, holdovers David Hale and Ranger Suárez, and veteran nonroster invitees Brandon Kintzler, Héctor Rondón, and Tony Watson.