By Connor Thomas
The Phillies had another painful loss last night, falling 7-4 to the Tampa Bay Rays. There were plenty of things that contributed to the 2 game sweep at the hands of the Rays, and really it’s the same old story we’ve been reading all season long: poor defense, inconsistent hitting, rough bullpen performance. One man will not solve all of those problems (unless Shohei Ohtani is available), but this team is certainly better with Rhys Hoskins in the lineup. They could really use him right now, but he is still in the midst of recovering from a groin strain that sidelined him for almost two weeks earlier this month. Despite Hoskins coming of the IL this past Sunday, he is still struggling to make it in the lineup every day. At this point, it’s up to the Phillies to make a decision on how to handle his availability, because what they’re doing right now is simply nonsensical.
In his return Sunday against the San Diego Padres, Hoskins looked great. He played steady at 1st Base, and slugged 2 home runs to propel the Phils to a series winning victory. The team then had an off day as they traveled back from their West Coast trip. It seemed safe to assume that Hoskins would be in the lineup on Tuesday against the Tampa Bay Rays to start a huge week in the NL Pennant Race, but when Joe Girardi wrote out his card, #17 was nowhere to be found.
According to The Inquirer’s Matt Breen, the decision to sit Hoskins despite the off day on Monday was due to the team not feeling comfortable in his ability to play back to back games:
Rhys Hoskins is out of tonight’s lineup because Phillies don’t yet feel comfortable playing him back-to-back games and they face a LHP tomorrow so Hoskins will start tomorrow.
— Matt Breen (@matt_breen) August 24, 2021
What kind of baseball player is not able to play multiple days in a row? It’s certainly not a healthy one. Of course this is absolutely of no fault to Rhys Hoskins, who seems to be doing all he can to help the Phillies. It is up to the team to handle this correctly, and so far they haven’t. After Tuesday night’s game, in which Rhys Hoskins did not start but pinch hit, Joe Girardi said in his postgame availability that if he had reached base, Hoskins would have had to be pinch run for. So we are meant to believe that Hoskins is healthy enough to start every day, but can’t even run the bases for himself after a day off? If he is so hurt that running the bases wouldn’t have been possible for him, frankly he should be shut down entirely.
And yet, last night, Rhys Hoskins was batting cleanup and playing 1st. Less than 24 hours after being too hurt to run the bases for himself, now he is healthy enough to play 9 innings? If this was a court of law, the Phillies would be a prosecutor’s dream. There are just too many inaccuracies from day to day when it comes to what the team is saying about Hoskins’ injury. Sure enough, in the top of the 4th inning, Hoskins attempted to range to his right for a hard hit ground ball and fell awkwardly to the dirt. He stayed down on his hands and knees for a couple seconds while the play continued, very clearly feeling some sort of discomfort. However, he remained in the game, and even hit a game tying home run in the 8th inning, marking his 3rd long ball in his 2 games started since coming off the IL.
If you’re the Phillies, you have two very clear options:
1.) Shut down Hoskins entirely. If he is physically unable to run for himself every other day, as Girardi claimed, he is not healthy enough to play. Put him back on the IL if you have to.
2.) Play him every day and risk further injury in exchange for a much needed bump in your offense.
I don’t know how hurt Rhys Hoskins is, or what he is telling the organization about how he is feeling, so it’s not my place to pick one of those two options. What I do know, though, is that it makes absolutely no sense to keep sitting one of your best hitters every other day. The Phillies are trying to sit on the fence of a tough situation, and it’s risking both their season and Hoskins’ health. Neither of the options on the table are great, but tough choices are made every day in sports. It’s time for the Phillies to make theirs.