"Sit down," Wathan told Hoskins, the Phillies' No. 6 prospect according to MLBPipeline.com. "I want to have a conversation with a big leaguer."
With those words, the most sought after man in the Delaware Valley packed his things, called some loved ones, and set off for Philadelphia, where he made his debut in Thursday's 10-0 loss to the Mets. While his first MLB game came 16 months after his first experience at Citizens Bank Park in the 2016 Phillies Futures Series prospect showcase, it also signaled another shift for the 24-year-old, this one from the right side of the infield to the left corner of the outfield where -- other than the last three days in the Minors -- he hadn't played since college.
And in the first inning, as baseball law would dictate, the ball found the new guy. Mets catcher Travis d'Arnaud cracked a hard, low liner to left field that Hoskins ranged to his right and snagged. Not the easiest introduction to big league outfielding.
"It's never a doubt that that's going to happen. Good to get the first one out of the way," Hoskins said. "Obviously glad I caught it, and as the game went on, I felt a lot more comfortable out there."
"It was exciting," he said. "Didn't go as well as I had hoped, but that's baseball."
The promotion wouldn't have come unless an opportunity arose to seamlessly inject Hoskins into the Phillies' lineup. The club wasn't yet comfortable sitting current first baseman Tommy Joseph in favor of Hoskins, and the outfield was filled with three (four, before the team dealt Howie Kendrick to Washington) healthy, capable options. With a busy non-waiver Trade Deadline clearing four roster spots and the loss of Aaron Altherr to another hamstring injury, the time was right.
"We've talked about it all year," Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said. "His performance needs to meet up with the opportunity. He was taking care of half of the equation, but he needed some help with the other half. Really, the trade of Howie Kendrick 10 days ago coupled with Altherr's hamstring injury is what created the opportunity."
A month after Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said that Hoskins and Joseph couldn't coexist on the same team, and Klentak said there was a reason both were still playing first base, the tables have turned and the roster construction has shifted. All the while, Hoskins has hit.
"I don't want to discount the importance of that," Klentak said of Hoskins, who hit .284 with a .385 on-base percentage in Triple-A this season, leading the league in slugging (.581), OPS (.966) and RBIs (91). "Rhys has handled himself this year incredibly well. He's, really, from the beginning of this season until right now, has done exactly what he's needed to do. ... He's ready to help at the big league level."
There's no guarantee Hoskins will get everyday playing time, but with a hole in left until September when the Phillies expect Altherr to return, consistent playing time looks highly likely. For now, it doesn't look like his presence will impact Joseph much at first.
This is better than the alternative, though, of waiting until September when rosters expand to give Hoskins a quick cup of coffee.
"The September callup doesn't give you the true picture. But if you get a guy 150 at-bats I think it gives you a better idea, looking at the quality of the at-bats," Mackanin said. If Hoskins gets three at-bats in 50 of the Phillies' 51 remaining games, he'd hit that 150-mark right on the head.
But before he gets to that 150th at-bat, and before he finds out what his future role on the Phillies is, he'll focus what got him here. Hitting. And that all comes down to approach and plate discipline, one of the slugger's top talents and one he displayed in his eight-pitch walk Thursday night. He saw just one fastball in the at-bat and ripped it sharply foul.
"I think just kind of the same stuff that I've worked on this year," Hoskins said. "Hopefully being as stubborn to that plan as I can and not waver from it. It's worked so far. I'll make adjustments, it's a game of adjustments but until that has to be done, stick with what I've done."
Ben Harris is a reporter for MLB.com based in Philadelphia.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.