TAMPA — Gabe Kapler filled out his fourth Grapefruit League lineup card on Monday afternoon and had an interesting name written into the leadoff spot.
1. Rhys Hoskins, left field
The manager has used his lineups this spring to try different things. It is practice, Kapler said. And there are six weeks of games this spring. There is a lot of practice. And Monday night in a 4-3 loss to the Yankees, Kapler tried his power hitter at leadoff. Hoskins regularly works deep counts and reaches base at a high rate, but don’t expect him to be batting leadoff once practice is finished.
“I really like Rhys in the two-hole and the four-hole, and those are two locations that he and I have had conversations about,” Kapler said. “That’s not to say that it couldn’t happen … but I guess it depends. The one thing I will say is it doesn’t have to be a speed guy. It doesn’t have to be a guy like, ‘Hit it on the ground and run really fast and be Willie Wilson.’”
The second and fourth spots in the lineup, Kapler believes, are the most crucial. Those are the spots that come up more often with runners on base. Expect Hoskins and Carlos Santana to fill those places. Neither Santana nor Hoskins batted second last season; they have spent the majority of their careers batting fourth. Their spots in the lineup could flip regularly.
“There’s a lot of nuance there and a lot of flow to the lineup, and it might be very marginal differences but still worth looking at deeply,” Kapler said.
Hernandez at short
Kapler tried Cesar Hernandez at shortstop on Monday night as the team continues to stress positional flexibility. Hernandez is still the team’s second baseman, but it doesn’t hurt to make sure he can play other positions in a pinch.
“It’s a demonstration of our players and their buy-in and their willingness to be flexible and their determination to move around the diamond,” Kapler said. “We’ve seen all of our players, not only say, ‘This makes sense,’ but ‘I’m willing to do it.”
Ben Lively and Tom Eshelman both logged two scoreless innings and punctuated their spring-training debuts with strikeouts of Giancarlo Stanton. Lively struck out three, walked none, and allowed a hit. Eshelman relieved Lively, struck out two and retired each of the six batters he faced. Both are among the pitchers in the mix to be the team’s fifth starter.
“Everyone knows there’s a competition,” Lively said. “Everyone stays on the same game plan and keeps doing the things they do. It’s fun to see everyone battle and compete. It’s awesome and makes everyone better.”
Jerad Eickhoff will start for the Phillies on Tuesday against Detroit and Vince Velasquez will start Wednesday against Toronto.