SAN DIEGO — From their initials and the round in which they were drafted to their position on the field and prodigious early-career power, Ryan Howard and Rhys Hoskins are undeniably linked in Phillies lore.
Surely, then, Howard can relate to Hoskins’ dreadful three-month slump in the latter half of last season.
“My opinion with Rhys, I think he just got out of his element,” Howard said Tuesday at the winter meetings after a news conference to promote a joint field refurbishment program between the Scotts Company and Major League Baseball. “There’s just times in your career when you can have those moments.”
After hitting 20 home runs, slugging .530 and posting a .931 on-base plus slugging percentage in 392 plate appearances before the All-Star break, Hoskins hit nine homers, slugged .361 and posted a .679 OPS over his final 313 plate appearances. It was a precipitous decline for the 26-year-old first baseman, casting at least some doubt on his status as a middle-of-the-order franchise cornerstone.
Hoskins tried everything, from narrowing his stance to tidying his leg kick. Nothing worked. Restoring Hoskins to his previous levels will be the first major project for new hitting coach Joe Dillon, who said recently that it’s “definitely on the docket to dive into” Hoskins’ struggles.
But while Dillon figures to study video and analyze the numbers to ascertain what went wrong, Howard said the best thing for Hoskins might be to simply forget everything about the second half of last season, a process that might have begun in November when Hoskins got married and honeymooned in the South Pacific.
“I think he’s a guy who’s going to put it all in the rearview mirror and look to go out this year and do what he’s done,” Howard said. “I think, too, having a guy like [new manager] Joe Girardi and the coaches he’s bringing in for his staff will kind of help him to his the reset button. That’s the fun thing about it. Last year was last year. You get a fresh start and get the opportunity to right the ship.”
Four months after having a bone spur removed from his right elbow, Jake Arrieta is “doing great” in his recovery, according to agent Scott Boras. The Phillies don’t believe Arrieta will be limited during spring training.
“The flexibility in his arm is extended and improving,” Boras said. “They took the bone chips out in the front and the back and we’re excited about his upcoming year. He’s throwing once a week now and playing Santa Claus.”