Joseph continues hot streak as 'the Scorpion'

Phillies first baseman has everyday job and new nickname

Joseph continues hot streak as 'the Scorpion'

PHILADELPHIA -- Tommy Joseph not only has become the Phillies' first baseman recently, he has also become the Scorpion.

He is surprised as anybody to learn he has a new nickname, but he is not going to argue with veteran teammate Ryan Howard about it. During pregame stretch recently, Howard asked his teammates where they were from. Joseph said he hailed from Arizona and Howard immediately blurted out the name of the eight-legged, double-pincered arachnid that seems to find its way into every home and hotel room in the desert state.

"Before games we do a high-five and a little scorpion thing," Joseph said after Monday night's 6-4 loss to the Cubs at Citizens Bank Park, raising his hand over his head like a scorpion about to strike its prey. "Trust me, it caught me by surprise. Whatever they want to call me works. If he wants to roll with the Scorpion, let's roll with it."

Joseph went 2-for-4 with a single off Cubs left-hander Jon Lester in the seventh inning and a solo homer against closer Hector Rondon in the ninth. He is hitting .375 (9-for-24) with one double, two home runs and three RBIs in his six consecutive starts since Phillies manager Pete Mackanin benched Howard.

Joseph and Howard have been good together, despite the incessant talk about Howard's role and future with the team. Last week, Howard gave Joseph a pep talk immediately following the news that Mackanin planned to play Joseph.

Howard spoke highly again of Joseph before Monday's game.

"Tommy's been great, man," Howard said. "He's had great at-bats. Really just taking it all in stride. He's been doing a great job."

Mackanin said Howard will start Tuesday night against Cubs right-hander Kyle Hendricks, but he acknowledged it is tough to sit Joseph on a team starved for offense.

"It's very tough," he said. "Even if I do stay with Joseph more often, I still have to keep [Howard] sharp and give him an opportunity to hit to do something for us."

But the Scorpion should be back in the lineup Wednesday.

"The Scorpion," said Howard, sounding unconvinced that he likes the nickname himself. "We'll work on it. We'll work on it. He likes it right now. But, yeah, he's been great, man."

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Read his Phillies blog The Zo Zone, follow him on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.