May 13, 2016
First baseman Tommy Joseph is en route to Philadelphia from Triple-A Lehigh Valley, the Phillies announced Friday. To make room for Joseph on the 25-man roster, Darin Ruf was optioned to Lehigh Valley.
Joseph, 24, was acquired from the San Francisco Giants four years ago in the trade that sent Hunter Pence out west. He struggled to stay on the field since joining the Phillies organization, battling through a series of injuries, most notably multiple concussions that forced him from his natural position behind the plate to first base.
Joseph has been healthy this spring. He’s also been one of the most productive hitters in the International League: Joseph was hitting .347 with six home runs and a .981 OPS in 27 games with the IronPigs.
Among players with at least 100 plate appearances, Joseph led the International League in hitting and in OPS.
Joseph’s hot start put him on the big league radar for the last couple of weeks, especially since the Phillies, despite their own strong start, have struggled offensively as a whole. Entering the weekend, the Phils had averaged 3.29 runs per game this season.
Only the lowly Atlanta Braves (3.06 RPG) have had a less productive offense through the season’s first six weeks.
Joseph was asked last week about the possibility of those two things coming together and presenting him with the phone call he’s been waiting for since he was a kid.
“You don’t want to think about it,” Joseph said. “I do my best to focus on the task at hand and playing the games here, but, I’m a player that’s obviously never had the call. That’s what I’m working toward. That's what I want to happen, for sure (it’d be great). But I try to stay here, in the moment.”
Joseph can now focus on his new opportunity in the big leagues. It remains to be seen, however, just how much he’ll play.
Pete Mackanin began the season saying he would go with a platoon at first base between the left-handed hitting Ryan Howard and the right-handed hitting Ruf. But the Phillies have faced only eight left-handed starting pitchers over their first 35 games, so the starting opportunities had been few and far between for Ruf.
If Mackanin continues to operate with a straight platoon, it’s difficult to see the right-handed hitting Joseph getting more playing time than Ruf got over the season’s first six weeks. Unlike Ruf, who made six starts in left field this season, Joseph is limited to one position: first base.
Ruf is hitting .158 (9-for-57) without a home run in 31 games this season. Among the 308 big leaguers with at least 50 plate appearances, Ruf ranked 302nd in hitting and 304th in OPS (.399).
Joseph, who will wear uniform No. 19, is in the lineup in place of Howard tonight: left-hander Brandon Finnegan is on tap to start for the Cincinnati Reds.
Joseph, as expected, starts in place of Howard as Phils are facing LHP Finnegan. pic.twitter.com/oMtiGdwgR4— Ryan Lawrence (@ryanlawrence21) May 13, 2016