When Rhys Hoskins tore a ligament in his left elbow last month, the Phillies' doctors warned that he might need surgery even though the injury occurred in his non-throwing arm.
But the first baseman hoped it wouldn’t be necessary.
Ultimately, Hoskins went through with it, undergoing a repair of the ulnar collateral ligament on Friday. The projected recovery time is four to six months, the team announced Monday, with the longer timetable taking Hoskins to opening day on April 1 at Citizens Bank Park.
“Any time you can avoid going under the knife, you want to,” Hoskins said a few weeks ago. “But we’ll have to decide, with the help of the medical team, whether or not the elbow is strong enough where I’m not compensating other places within the swing. If it’s not, then I believe surgery is still on the table.”
Hoskins was injured when he tried to tag the Marlins' Corey Dickerson in a Sept. 12 game in Miami. He sustained what he described as a small “gap” in the ligament and spent the last two weeks of the season on the injured list.
During the final series at Tampa Bay, Hoskins took light swings in the batting cage to determine the strength of his grip. The decision to have surgery, performed by Phillies head team physician Steven Cohen, was an indication that Hoskins' strength didn’t adequately return.
Hoskins' injury came at the worst possible time. Not only were the Phillies in a playoff race, but Hoskins was their hottest hitter, slugging .622 with 10 homers in his final 25 games.
The ulnar collateral ligament is typically the one that is reconstructed in Tommy John surgery, which is far more common among pitchers than position players. Pitchers usually require a much lengthier (12-15 months) recovery. Phillies shortstop Didi Gregorius had Tommy John surgery on his throwing elbow after the 2018 season with the New York Yankees and made it back in seven months.
But it isn’t known whether Hoskins had a full reconstruction of the ligament, which might account for the shorter recovery time. Hoskins said last month that doctors initially suggested he could return within four months.
“I was told that, because it’s non-throwing, it’s not as long as a normal elbow-surgery recovery time,” Hoskins said. “I was told about three to four months is the usual time, so I believe that puts me right at spring training, maybe a little bit before. So I don’t think anything in terms of next year would be affected.”