The Phillies could be without J.T. Realmuto when the team begins their regular season schedule on April 1 against the Atlanta Braves. The same could be said for Rhys Hoskins, who underwent UCL repair surgery on his left elbow in October. As of right now, there’s a good chance Joe Girardi will pencil him in as the team’s Opening Day first baseman.
“I think our expectations are he’ll be ready to play the field on Opening Day,” Girardi said on Sunday when asked about the possibility of Hoskins being ready to hit, but not healthy enough to play the field. “We’ll continue to progress through his rehab, but he’s doing extremely well. Maybe if you had a DH, you would think about it, but he’s taking ground balls. He’s going through all his progressions, which is really good.”
The initial timeline of the injury following surgery was four to six months and it appears his recovery is going as well as the Phillies had hoped it would. Hoskins suffered the injury trying to catch an offline throw from Realmuto on Sept. 12 in a game against the Marlins. Corey Dickerson collided with Hoskins, who was taken out of the game shortly after. Hoskins attempted to come back before the end of the regular season, but his grip strength didn’t return in time for the Phillies’ stretch run.
While the first full-squad workout is scheduled for Monday, Hoskins was one of the many position players to arrive early. Girardi hinted that the team will have to take it slow with Hoskins when it comes to game action in the Grapefruit League. That could mean Brad Miller takes some of the reps early on at first.
“Rhys may not be starting right away playing in games,” Girardi said Thursday. “We’re not holding him back. There are just things that [for example] McCutchen had to do. They have to clear some hurdles. Nothing major, but Rhys is doing all on-field activities with us. He hit today, he took grounders, so we’re really encouraged where he’s at. He might be a few days behind and that’s OK because there’s plenty of games for him to catch up.”
The Phillies faltered down the stretch without Hoskins. The team went 5-12 in their final 17 games without Hoskins and while the bullpen is mostly to blame for the team missing the playoffs, the lineup badly missed his bat. According to Phillies Nation’s own Jonny Heller, the team averaged 3.94 runs per game after his injury, down from 5.56 runs per game before he went down. Keep in mind, however, that both Hoskins and Realmuto missed a chunk of time in September due to injury.
A two-week period without either Realmuto or Hoskins could significantly hurt the Phillies’ playoff chances. Their first 13 games are against the Braves and Mets, two teams that are arguably much better than the Phillies on paper. A hot start could go a long way in the race for a spot in the postseason, but a string of losses early on could handicap their chances of even being competitive come the final month of the season.
At the very least, it seems like Hoskins has a good chance of playing in the majority of those key early-season games. Hoskins, or any position player, has yet to speak with the media, but when he eventually does, expect him to echo the same positivity Girardi has regarding his rehab and availability for the regular season.
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