Though the Philadelphia Phillies hold a three-game lead (four in the loss column) in the National League East Division standings, there have been weak links in the squad keeping the club from extending their lead even wider.
One of those areas has been a less-than-imposing group of bench players who have collectively produced a mixed bag of results when called upon. Six players have received the bulk of the work in that reserve role, with a few of them seeing starting opportunities when injuries have struck.
The six players making up the Phillies bench for the majority of the season have been backup catcher Andrew Knapp, outfielders Nick Williams and Aaron Altherr (the latter recently DFA’d), and utility players Scott Kingery (currently injured), Sean Rodriguez, and Phil Gosselin.
Prior to suffering his injury the 25-year-old Kingery was on fire and pushing for increased playing time. However, he has been on the Injured List since April 20. The Phillies are hoping that he can begin a minor league rehab stint on Monday and return to the team in short order.
Also producing well has been the veteran Rodriguez, who was called up from Triple-A Lehigh Valley when starting shortstop Jean Segura was placed on the IL in late April.
Altherr was slashing just .180/.241/.280 prior to his release. Williams is slashing just .180/.241/.280 over 54 plate appearances across 32 games, just nine of those as a starter. Knapp is slashing .172/.333/.241 over 19 games, five of those as the starter behind the plate to give J.T. Realmuto a rest.
A feel-good story off the bench for the Phillies has been the 30-year-old veteran Gosselin, now in his seventh big-league season. The Phillies are Gosselin’s seventh team over the course of his career in Major League Baseball. He previously has seen action with the Atlanta Braves, Arizona Diamondbacks, Pittsburgh Pirates, Texas Rangers, and Cincinnati Reds.
Part of what makes Gosselin’s story attractive to Phillies fans is that he is a local product. He was born Bryn Mawr, grew up in West Chester, and is a graduate of Malvern Prep High School for whom he played shortstop.
Gosselin went to the University of Virginia and enjoyed a highly successful collegiate career, setting the Cavaliers school record with 100 hits in the 2009 season. That helped earn him first-team All-ACC and third-team All-American honors. He was then selected by the Braves in the fifth round of the 2010 MLB Amateur Draft.
He reached the big-leagues with Atlanta in 2013, and since then Gosselin has been used as either a bench player or a Triple-A reserve. His best season came during a 2015 campaign split between Atlanta and Arizona. He appeared in 44 games between the two stops and slashed .311/.373/.500 with career highs of three home runs and 15 RBIs that year.
The most action that he has seen came in the 2016 season with the Diamondbacks. That year, Gosselin received 240 plate appearances over 122 games, the vast majority as a pinch-hitter. He produced a career-high 15 extra-base hits as a valuable member of manager Chip Hale‘s bench group.
Gosselin signed with the Phillies back on December 21. At spring training in Florida he made the most of his opportunities, slashing .405/.444/714 with eight extra-base hits over 19 games and 42 at-bats.
Assigned to Triple-A Lehigh Valley to begin the season, Gosselin kept hitting with a .419/.538/.516 slash line over his first 10 games. That performance and some Phillies injury issues led to a mid-April promotion, and his production with the big club has kept him here since that time.
“It’s exciting,” Gosselin said per Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia following his promotion. “I think all of us in here, guys that don’t play every day, want to play every day. We all want to get the chance, no matter if it’s catcher, right field. I’ll put in some work with (infield coach) Bobby Dickerson, keep working at it, and look to make all the routine plays out there so the pitchers have confidence in me.”
Gosselin is hitting .300 over 30 plate appearances in 15 games. He started five games at shortstop when Segura was hurt, and has also appeared twice in left field, including once as a starter when Andrew McCutchen was playing in center.
Perhaps most importantly, Gosselin has been the lone player to produce as a pinch-hitter this season. He is batting .500 (4-8) in that role with a pair of RBIs.
At Citizens Bank Park on May 1, Gosselin was sent up to pinch-hit by manager Gabe Kapler with the Phillies leading the Detroit Tigers by 6-3. With two outs and two men on and facing Tigers righty reliever Zac Reininger, Gosselin delivered a double to score Cesar Hernandez.
Gosselin has played every position on the infield as well as numerous innings in left field during his career in Major League Baseball. That versatility and the experience gained over 609 big-league plate appearances could prove invaluable to these 2019 Phillies.
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