BALTIMORE — Rhys Hoskins has heard the theory that participating in the Home Run Derby can mess up a hitter’s swing.
Sorry, but the Phillies slugger doesn’t buy it.
“I don’t think it’s going to be an issue at all,” Hoskins said Thursday. “I get it for some people, I guess, but I don’t think that there will be any changes in my swing to do the derby. That’s not going to be an issue for me.”
Although Hoskins wasn’t named to the National League all-star team, he was tabbed to swing for the fences Monday night in Washington. He will be the fifth Phillies player to compete in the derby and the first since Ryan Howard in 2009.
The notion of the derby as a detriment began with former Phillies outfielder Bobby Abreu. In 2005, he hit 18 homers in 397 plate appearances before participating in — and winning — the Home Run Derby, then hit only six homers in 322 plate appearances for the rest of the season.
When New York Mets third baseman David Wright had a similar power outage after finishing as the derby runner-up to Howard in 2006, a theory arose that he and Abreu altered their swing mechanics for the contest and fell into bad habits.
“I think it’s a story that the baseball world tells itself,” Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said, citing Howard’s apparent immunity to the derby jinx in 2006, 2007, and 2009. “As many cases as you can find on the side of a guy’s swing not being perfect after the Home Run Derby, you can find guys excelling.”
Hoskins contends that the derby isn’t much different from a typical round of batting practice. In fact, while he works on various elements of his swing before games, he said he occasionally tries to muscle up and hit home runs. He maintains that Monday night won’t be any different.
“I have a routine that I typically follow in BP. I like to control the barrel a little bit more,” said Hoskins, who was the Phillies’ designated hitter in Thursday night’s interleague game against the Orioles and entered play with 14 homers in 353 plate appearances this season. “But sometimes you feel like you’ve just got to let it fly.”
Hoskins said he planned to text Howard over the weekend for derby advice. In particular, Hoskins is “curious to see if he has anything to say about the amount of [practice] swings that you take.”
Several big-name sluggers, including the New York Yankees’ Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, declined to enter the derby. Boston Red Sox star Mookie Betts believes the contest has outlived its appeal. Of this year’s eight participants, Bryce Harper is the only previous derby entrant, and he’s competing mostly because the All-Star Game is being played in his home ballpark.
But Hoskins is eager for the chance to show off his power for a national audience and draw more attention to the young Phillies.
“It’s one of those things where, there’s not a whole lot of national media on us with what we’ve done so far this year,” Hoskins said. “That ball might be starting to roll a little bit faster now with being in first place, but it’ll be cool. I think the more exposure that we can get as a team and an organization will be better for us down the road.”
Centerfielder Adam Haseley, the Phillies’ first-round pick last year, made his double-A debut for Reading on Thursday night. The 22-year-old batted .300 with 13 doubles, five triples, five home runs, and a .758 OPS in 79 games at high-A Clearwater. … Jake Arrieta (6-6, 3.47 ERA) will start the final series-opener before the all-star break Friday night in Miami.