Rhys' knee passes first test; Walker deploys splitter

March 3rd, 2023

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- When revealed earlier this week that he had undergone a meniscectomy on his right knee in December, the Phillies’ first baseman insisted that he was fully healthy and there would be no lingering concerns this spring.

But even he was happy to get some affirmation on Friday afternoon when he made his Grapefruit League debut as Philadelphia's designated hitter in a 6-3 loss to Detroit at BayCare Ballpark.

"It was good to be back out there," Hoskins said. "You can only do so much without just playing in a game, right? You can only do so much on the back fields."

Hoskins didn't miss a beat in his return to game action, going 2-for-2 with a pair of singles. He didn't advance beyond first base following either of his hits and was lifted for a pinch-runner following his sixth-inning walk, but Hoskins still had a chance to test his knee.

Though Hoskins' first-inning single was a routine base knock up the middle, his second was a line drive into left-center field. Hoskins ran hard out of the box and took a hard turn around first before slamming on the brakes and pivoting back to the base.

It was an important step for Hoskins to react naturally in a live game situation as opposed to going through set drills.

"Just making a move that I'm not necessarily trying to plan out or know what the move's going to be and then just realizing, 'Hey, you're OK,'" Hoskins said. "That type of thing helps. [I was] anxious, for sure, just to get out there. But I'll be fine."

Hoskins will cross another item off his to-do list on Sunday when he takes the field to play defense for the first time this spring. He'll be out of the lineup for a planned off-day on Saturday before playing first base against the Blue Jays on Sunday in Dunedin.

"The work has been great [on the back fields] and it will continue to be, but there's just no substitute for live action," Hoskins said. "So it felt good. You've got to get the first out of the way and now I can just go play."

Walker solid in debut
Phillies newcomer said at his introductory press conference in December that he was excited to showcase his splitter more in 2023 and to work with J.T. Realmuto, whom Walker called the "best catcher in the game."

Walker was able to do both Friday in his spring debut with the club.

The right-hander threw 14 splitters, which accounted for 41 percent of his 34 pitches. He didn't use any other offering more than five times. 

Walker used his splitter to induce an inning-ending double play ball from Javier Báez in the first, and he also relied on the pitch to finish off each of his two strikeouts. He allowed two runs (one of which scored after he departed) over 2 1/3 innings.

"It felt good. The action was there," Walker said of his splitter. "There were a couple that were up, but for the most part, the action was there. Got some swings and misses, a couple strikeouts with it. So it was good."

Walker's next appearance, however, will not come in a Phillies uniform. He's set to join Team Mexico for the World Baseball Classic next week in Arizona, with his next outing coming in an exhibition game either on Wednesday against the Guardians in Goodyear or Thursday against the Rockies in Scottsdale.

That said, the Phillies have been in contact with Mexico's coaching staff, and everyone is on the same page as far as pitch counts and inning limits for any appearances Walker makes while he's away.

Though he's excited to participate in the Classic, Walker is also eager to get back to camp in Clearwater. While he's been around his new teammates for a few weeks since reporting to camp, Walker admitted it's hard to gel at this point with so many people on the roster and a schedule that often has players doing their daily work at different locations.

"Early in camp, there's so many players here and a lot of moving parts, especially here in Florida [because] travel is so long, so sometimes you get here and half the team is gone already," Walker said. "Once I come back, you know, [the roster] will probably be a little smaller and I'm excited to start interacting and talking to guys more."