LOS ANGELES — Gabe Kapler awoke to a text message Thursday morning from Rhys Hoskins, who informed the manager that an oral surgeon in Philadelphia ruled that Hoskins’ fractured jaw would not require surgery.
“It was a moment to celebrate,” Kapler said.
The decision meant that Hoskins will be on the disabled list for weeks, instead of months. Even with Hoskins’ struggles in May, the Phillies still see him as the centerpiece of their lineup. Missing him for a significant stretch would have been tough to overcome.
“He’s so important,” Kapler said. “You could kind of feel him missing in the dugout yesterday. It was kind of strange.”
As Hoskins rests his jaw and consumes a soft diet, the Phillies will receive an opportunity to learn more about two of their players. Nick Williams and Aaron Altherr, who have shared right field for the season’s first two months, will assume everyday roles.
Williams started Thursday for the second straight game in left field while Altherr manned right. Williams met with Kapler during the first week of the season after complaining about his playing time. He responded by becoming one of the league’s best pinch-hitters while Altherr seemed to struggle once Kapler deemed that Altherr had earned the majority of playing time in right field.
Hoskins’ absence will give Williams the chance to prove that he is more than a bench player and present Altherr the everyday reps that may be required for him to rediscover the rhythm and timing he lost at the plate.
“I’m curious, a little bit,” Williams said when asked if he was excited to see what he could do in an everyday role. “But honestly, I’m just trying to maintain the focus and have good at-bats. I bought into what they had in the plan for me and it’s going to be really good for me.”
Williams entered Thursday with five homers in his last 15 games and a .937 OPS in May. But he started fewer than half of the team’s games this month before Hoskins fractured his jaw Monday night. Kapler called Williams a a good teammate and a professional who “weathered a storm early in the season.” Williams said he learned how to channel his aggressiveness while still being patient at the plate.
“I think sometimes with being patient, I get scared to be aggressive in some situations. That’s not necessarily something you want,” Williams said. “I’ve been taking baby steps and it’s going to work out in the long run. I’m not that old, so this is going to help out down the road, big time.”
Altherr went 1-for-4 Wednesday to enter Thursday with a .200 batting average in May and .655 OPS. He seemed to find himself at the end of April before his struggles resurfaced. Kapler said he thought Altherr’s timing was off with his leg kick. Altherr said he’s not sure what’s wrong. He has a few weeks to try to fix it.
“I’ve been trying to figure that out for a while now, but it’s part of the process, I guess,” Altherr said. “I know I feel close, even though it might not seem that way. But I do feel like I’m getting closer and closer. Obviously, it [stinks] to have Rhys out of the lineup. Hopefully it’s not too long. He’s obviously a big part of our team, a big part of the offense. Even though he was struggling a little bit lately, he’s still a threat to do some damage. It’s going to be tough to have him out of the lineup, but I’m going to try to get things going maybe with a little more playing time. Hopefully find something that clicks.”
Dylan Cozens and rightfielder Mark Leiter Jr. were both promoted from triple A. Cozens ended 43 percent of his plate appearances this season at triple A with either a homer or a strikeout. “I’m excited to hit the big-league balls,” Cozens joked about the baseballs that are flying out of MLB parks at record rates. … Drew Hutchison was designated for assignment, bringing the 40-man roster to 39…Jerad Eickhoff will meet Friday with a second specialist to try to determine the cause of the numbness in his fingertips. … Nick Pivetta will start the series opener Friday in San Francisco against righthander Chris Stratton.