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Phillies' Tommy Joseph will compete, if he has to, for first base job

Heading into his second MLB season, the infielder knows nothing is guaranteed.
Tommy Joseph had a solid rookie campaign and is the front-runner to man first base inGetty Images

Tommy Joseph knows what’s ahead… he also knows what’s behind him.

“Brock Stassi,” Joseph said of the Lehigh Valley star. “He’s an incredible ball player.”

“Rhys Hoskins,” continued Joseph, going down the organizational depth chart at first base in his head.

“Kyle Martin,” he concluded.

As Joseph rattled off the list of talented prospects at his position during the final media availability before the Phillies head south for spring training, he never broke stride with his ultimate message.

“We’ve got studs in this organization,” Joseph said. “They’re going to take the same approach in spring training so there’s no reason for me not to. We’re competitors. We’re all going to compete for the same spot.”

Joseph won’t breathe a sigh of relief knowing that the starting spot belongs to him if he wants it heading into the 2017 campaign. He listened to what management and his coaches told him before departing home to Phoenix for the winter.

The 25-year-old says he improved his footwork, specifically with his quickness by doing plenty of jump rope exercises, as well as fine-tuning his swing. As manager Pete Mackanin hinted at on Wednesday, that has a bit to do with shortening the swing and looking to drive the ball the other way more frequently.

“A lot of guys don’t have the proper technique to do it,” Mackanin said. “Matt [Stairs] and I have talked about it, and that’s going to be a big thing for us.”

After dealing with a slew of injuries, including a concussion that knocked him out for much of the 2013 season, Joseph burst onto the scene thanks to a .347 average in Lehigh Valley that caught the attention of the big league club.

Joseph batted .257 with 47 RBI and 21 HR in 107 games as a rookie.

“Tommy Joseph came out of nowhere,” Mackanin said. “There’s a lot to be excited about there. He was off the map and he did enough to warrant a real good, strong look this year and hopefully he can improve and take baby steps to being a final product.”

The always humble Joseph is ready for that challenge. He’s been facing obstacles throughout his career, so taking a stranglehold on a starting spot is just another task in front of him.

He knows what’s coming behind him, making it all the more challenging. Mackanin mentioned how the team is always looking for the next Tommy Joseph, someone who forces himself onto the scene just as he did during Ryan Howard’s farewell tour.

“In a way I guess you could say it’s going to be a little more comfortable because I’m on the big league side of things,” Joseph said. “But the job still has to be earned, nothing is going to be giving to me."

 

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