TRENTON — The scouts who descended on Carmichael, Calif., a Sacramento suburb, in the spring of 2011 were confident they were going to see a future major-league slugger.
And Rhys Hoskins was there, too.
Hoskins hit cleanup for Jesuit High School, at least once basketball season ended and he turned his attention to baseball. He had power, sure. But he also was committed to playing for Sacramento State, the only college that recruited him, and that was where the pro scouts would really take notice.
In 2011, the main attraction at Jesuit High was the hitter who batted ahead of Hoskins. Zach Green played shortstop and hit in the No. 3 spot. By age 17, he was already 6-foot-3. He received a scholarship offer from Oregon State before his sophomore year and played with Alex Bregman and Corey Seager on USA Baseball's 16U national team in 2010.
"Zach really stood out because he was so big as a shortstop," Phillies scout Joey Davis said by phone. "He was probably about 6-3, 190, maybe 200, in high school. That was really appealing. I was in love with the body, but he showed he had a lot of power. That was a pretty good combination."
Seven years later, as Hoskins has become the face of the Phillies, Green is finally beginning to resurface on the organization's radar. He's 24 now, and he is leading double-A Reading with 10 home runs and a .945 OPS, which ranks eighth in the Eastern League.
It has been a long road back here. The Phillies drafted Green in the third round in 2012 and signed him for $420,000. A year later, he led the short-season New York-Penn League with 13 homers in 74 games. But then his body betrayed him. He missed two months with back pain in 2014 and was limited to 26 games by a wrist injury in 2015. Two years ago, he played in pain before finally succumbing to Tommy John elbow surgery and a hip procedure.
And as Green recovered, Hoskins, shortstop J.P. Crawford, catcher Andrew Knapp, second baseman Scott Kingery, and other prospects who were drafted in the years after him zoomed past him in the Phillies farm system.
"It was tough," Green said before a game in Trenton this week. "There were days I'd go into [Clearwater manager Greg Legg's] office and let him know, 'Hey, there's no way I can go today. I'd just be an absolute liability out there even if I could play through it.' Going to the field like that is not how baseball should be."
Green made it back from the surgeries by the middle of last season, but he batted only .227 with nine homers in 198 at-bats on three minor-league levels. It wasn't until he went to the Arizona Fall League that he finally began to feel like himself.
The feeling has carried over into this season. Green doubled to left field in the fourth inning Tuesday night, marking his ninth consecutive game with a hit. With two games left this month, he is batting .333 with seven homers in May. Overall, he is batting .299 with a .360 on-base percentage.
"From the organization standpoint and my standpoint, we're just glad to see him able to play every day and pain-free, and we're seeing the Zach Green that everybody thought we were going to see," said Legg, now the manager in Reading. "He's been real consistent for us. He's back to the young, 19-year-old kid I remember seeing when I first got a look at him on the field."
Green has come to appreciate the routines of the game. What often feels like a grind to many players is a labor of love for Green, who is delighting in finally being able to participate in the mundane rituals of batting and infield practice. These days, he spends extra time with hitting coach Kevin Riggs focusing on specifics. This week's emphasis is ambushing fastballs early in the count.
"Little things like that, I think, are helping me produce the numbers that everyone likes to see," Green said. "I think it's the little, tiny goals that you can set within the game that really help. That's definitely my favorite part about being healthy — being able to work and improve my craft."
Green stays in contact with Hoskins. They swap text messages at least once a month during the season. Every so often, Green recalls what it was like to play together.
"I was 3; he was 4," Green said. "If I got on, he would score me."
Said Davis: "They were the twin towers."
Maybe someday they will play together again. Phillies manager Gabe Kapler attended a game in Reading in April and took note of seeing Green hit a home run.
"It didn't cross my mind until after the game and my mom called and was like, 'Hey, Kapler was at your game,' " Green said. "That was cool."
Then again, Green says the same for almost every game he's able to play without the pain of the last few years dragging him down.