When it was over and the Phillies emerged with a 9-5 opening day victory, Joe Girardi delivered a one-word message to rookie infielder Bryson Stott.
“Outstanding,” the manager said.
Girardi could have been referring to Stott’s first major league hit, a single to right field in the sixth inning against Oakland reliever Jacob Lemoine. Or his RBI double in the eighth against tough left-hander Kirby Snead.
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But Girardi was talking more about Stott’s response to a difficult seventh inning. Playing third base – he’s a natural shortstop – Stott made two poor throws that contributed to Oakland runs. He was given an error on one, a chopper that he charged and threw wide of first base. First baseman Rhys Hoskins was charged with an error on the other because he was unable to hold onto the ball.
Rather than allowing the misplays to linger, Stott recovered to make two routine plays in the eighth inning before driving in the insurance run against Snead.
“To kind of mess that one up and allow a run there and then to be able to come right back and get those two in a row,” Stott said, “it was awesome.”
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The Phillies put Stott on the opening day roster because they were impressed with more than his spring training stat line (13-for-31, incidentally). They believe the 24-year-old top prospect can handle the pressure of playing in the majors, even at multiple positions.
Stott started at third base against the A’s. He’s probably going to play second base, too, and perhaps shortstop when Girardi decides to give Didi Gregorius a breather. And although there will be growing pains in learning unfamiliar positions, the Phillies are confident that he will handle it, even more now that they’ve seen him deal with adversity.
“It says he’s pretty mature and can turn the page,” Girardi said. “Because that’s not easy, right? Opening day. You’ve probably got jitters anyway. You get two really tough plays and he’s not able to make them. He didn’t get a play like that all spring. It’s something we’ll continue to work on him with. But it says a lot. ”
Stott had a sizable rooting section Friday, including his mom, Shana. He said he plans to give her the ball from his first major league hit. She has several other mementos, including the bat with which he hit his first minor league homer.
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Nerves? Yeah, Stott had a few. They began when he was introduced in the pregame ceremony.
“That’s kind of when everything kind of hit me that I was really here,” he said. “That’s when my heart rate started going up. It was just awesome. ”
Stott said his heart rate began to normalize in the second inning after he fielded a routine grounder from Oakland’s Chad Pinder. Surely, though, things started to speed up again after the seventh-inning misplays.
Bryce Harper, Stott’s close friend, said he could sense the rookie wasn’t rattled.
“That’s him,” Harper said. “He just goes out there, doesn’t really let anything phase him. Tough inning right there for him. I think just him going up there and having that good at-bat against that lefty, getting that double, it just goes to show that he’s ready to be here and he’s excited to be here. ”