Rhys Hoskins ended last season in the first week of September and flew back to Northern California. It had been that way for each of his first three minor-league seasons. His body, Hoskins said, is used to being home right now.
The final month of his rookie season, which ended Sunday with an 11-0 win over the Mets, was a grind. Hoskins and the other young Phillies — the group the Phillies hope can be the core of their next contending team — had never played this deep into a season. It was certainly a test.
“I’m not going to lie and say I wasn’t tired. I definitely was,” Hoskins said. “But at the same time everyone else is in the same boat. You’ve got to learn from it. And hopefully sometime soon we’re worrying about how to play into October.”
Hoskins arrived in the majors with 18 home runs in his first 34 games. He did not homer again. The 24-year-old went 17 for 83 with 27 strikeouts in his final 26 games. He was clearly tired, yet Hoskins still managed to lead the National League with 23 walks in September. He missed just one game since being promoted and that was due to a sore wrist. Hoskins battled the grind and never asked for a break, even playing both ends of a doubleheader.
“I take pride in it,” Hoskins said. “I think it’s maybe a personal goal. If I can be on the field, if I’m healthy enough to be on the field, I want to be on the field. I want to contribute to the team as much as I can. And if that’s me being on the field every day, then that’s me being on the field every day.”
Pete Mackanin, in one of his final acts as manager, called his young team together last week and challenged it. Tired now? Imagine gearing up for a month of the playoffs, Mackanin said. The manager had a point. The final stretch was a good introduction for most to the rigors of the major-league season.
“It was definitely a grind,” J.P. Crawford said. “But you worked your whole life for this moment. No matter how tired you are, you have to grind through it and show that you can play and belong here. I was happy that a lot of us got our feet wet in the last month. We played really well and I can’t wait to get out here next year and see what we can do.”
Nick Williams began to feel the strain of the season last week, when it became difficult even to get out of bed.
“It’s definitely a new thing,” Williams said. “I’ve done instructional league, things like that, but never full-on had to remain in serious mode and grind out at-bats. It’s a learning point, going into the offseason, get strong and work hard because this last month is long.”
Williams ended his grind with an inside-the-park home run in his final at-bat. He blasted a ball off the top of the wall in left-center field. Williams was exhausted but found the energy to sprint around the bases and beat the throw home. A half-hour later, Williams said, he was still catching his breath.
“I thought I had a piano on my back,” Williams said.
The piano was lifted and the season was over. Williams’ team had defeated the grind with his final swing as a rookie. And this young Phillies team hopes to battle it again.