CLEARWATER, Fla. — Phillies first baseman Rhys Hoskins was carted off the field after falling to the ground with what was later diagnosed by an MRI as a left anterior cruciate ligament tear that will require surgery, the team announced on Thursday evening.
The recommended surgery is an ACL reconstruction, the Phillies said in a statement. Additional details such as a date for the surgery and a timeline for recovery are “to be determined.”
In the top of the second inning, the Tigers’ Austin Meadows lined a ground ball toward first base. Hoskins broke back to field it, but took an awkward step and fell to the ground, clutching his left knee in obvious pain. Manager Rob Thomson jogged out to see him with the Phillies’ training staff and the EMS crew. His teammates on the field gathered around him. Kyle Schwarber helped Hoskins on to a cart that transported him off the field. Before Hoskins departed, a few players, including Nick Castellanos, Brandon Marsh, and Bryson Stott, shook his hand.
“He was (in a lot of pain), especially initially,” Thomson said on the NBC Sports Philadelphia broadcast.
The timing is brutal for Hoskins, who underwent meniscus surgery in December on his right knee. A few weeks ago, Hoskins described his right knee as a “non-issue” and said it wouldn’t delay his start to the season.
“You look at that guy, and the way he worked this offseason, to put him in a good spot, feeling good swing wise, body wise, everything. … He was ready to come out and play 162 [games] or more,” Schwarber said. “Baseball is weird like that. But hopefully, like we said, we got good news, but if not, we’re all there for him no matter what.”
“We respect him, wish him all of the best, obviously,” shortstop Trea Turner said after the game. “Hopefully his tests come back clean and it’s nothing too bad. Hate seeing that happen to him. But he’s one of our guys, one of our leaders, and we’re going to miss him. Even if it’s a short period of time, we’re going to miss him.”
This season was bound to be a pivotal one for Hoskins, who just turned 30 on March 17. He avoided arbitration with the Phillies in the offseason, settling at $12 million, but will be eligible for free agency after the season.
He has been a part of the Phillies organization since 2014, when he was drafted in the fifth round. He has hit .242/.353/.492 with an .846 OPS over six seasons with the Phillies.
“He does (mean more than the numbers),” Thomson said. “He’s so good in the clubhouse. He’s so calming out there. He’s big for us, he really is.”
Hoskins’ absence certainly has ripple effects on the 26-man roster. For one, it opens up the bench competition. The Phillies have five players vying for two spots: Scott Kingery, Dalton Guthrie, Darick Hall, Jake Cave, and Kody Clemens.
Clemens has 213 innings worth of experience at first base, between the big leagues and the minor leagues. Guthrie and Cave don’t have any experience there.
Kingery can play comfortably at third base if needed, which the Phillies could do if they wanted to move third baseman Alec Bohm to first base. But they may not be inclined to do so, since Bohm has played in just one game at first base this spring, and has been making strides at third with infield coach Bobby Dickerson.
Hall has the most experience at the position out of all the bench candidates, playing 4,771 2/3 innings there throughout his minor league career, and 39 innings last season in his rookie year with the Phillies. Hall, who has been used primarily against right-handed hitters, has put in work this offseason on evening out his left-right splits, but could split time at the position with Bohm in the meantime.
Hall seemed to be a frontrunner to make the roster regardless, to fill in for Bryce Harper while he recovers from Tommy John surgery. Hall is hitting .319/.385/.681 this spring with a 1.066 OPS. All five bench candidates have options, so the Phillies have some flexibility.
Another option still in major league camp is infielder Weston Wilson. Signed to a minor league contract in January, Wilson has played 1,352 1/3 minor league innings at first base and has shown some power this spring. He’s hitting .294/.385/.529 with a .914 OPS through 18 spring training games. Wilson is still an unproven entity, though; he doesn’t have any big league experience. He have to be added to the 40-man roster.