Mackanin not shying away from putting slugger in cleanup spot
By Ben Harris
PHILADELPHIA -- Just 72 hours ago, Rhys Hoskins received his first Major League uniform and starting nod from his new skipper. Another pair of firsts fell off his big league to-do list Sunday: his first RBI and first base knock.
It was a slow start for Hoskins -- ranked by MLBPipeline.com as the Phillies' No. 6 prospect -- in his first three games leading up to Sunday. But that didn't stop Phillies manager Pete Mackanin from injecting his new toy into the heart of the order essentially from the word "go." Hoskins hit cleanup in his second big league game and hasn't moved since.
Mackanin planned on easing Hoskins in. But even after one game, he knew his slugger -- known as much for his power as his plate discipline -- could handle the challenge. After all, it's where Hoskins is most comfortable.
"I love hitting fourth," Hoskins told Mackanin. "I've hit fourth my whole life."
And from that fourth spot, Hoskins drove in his first MLB run in the first inning of Sunday's 6-2 loss to the Mets. It wasn't flashy, or highlight-worthy, but after pounding a tough 2-2 slider to short with the bases loaded, Hoskins hauled every ounce of his 6-foot-4, 225-pound frame down the first-base chalk and beat the throw to avoid a double play. First-base umpire Jeff Nelson initially called him out, but a Phillies challenge overturned the call.
His pure hustle manufactured the RBI -- had he been thrown out, the run would still have scored but no RBI would have been awarded.
Then came his fifth-inning flare, not one of the prototypical moonshot homers launched from the Reading and Lehigh Valley proving grounds over the last two seasons, but a ball flicked into right field just off the glove of a leaping, heavy-footed Dominic Smith at first base to end his 0-for-12 start.
It was just enough. For the 24,106 in attendance, it was more than enough. A rousing ovation brought Phillies fans to their feet on a day when not much else did.
Hoskins had walked 64 times at Triple-A Lehigh Valley this season before his callup, a mark that tied for the International League lead with IronPigs teammate J.P. Crawford upon his callup. But as attendance figures -- and expectations -- mount along the path from Triple-A to the Majors, Hoskins began pressing, uncharacteristically swinging at balls out of the zone and evening up hitter's counts to the pitcher's advantage while he searched for that elusive first hit.
"Especially when I was getting ahead in counts I was getting out of my approach and my plan," Hoskins said. "That's never a good place to be."
His first-inning fielder's choice that netted his first big league RBI was the latest example.
"I was up [2-1] and ended up swinging at a ball," he said. "A productive out at least, but that's a situation, especially in the top of the first when they scored a couple of runs, you want to do some damage with the ball. I wasn't able to do that but I got the job done."
"I think he started to press a little bit, and he was anxious to get that hit," Mackanin said. "So I think the monkey is off his back now. Everybody was happy to see that on the bench."
Ben Harris is a reporter for MLB.com based in Philadelphia and covered the Phillies on Sunday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.