When the Phillies clubhouse opened Sunday morning, there was a locker with first baseman Darick Hall's nameplate above it and all his equipment below. He'd been recalled from Triple-A Lehigh Valley and was in the starting lineup against the Nationals.
Shortly after, Kody Clemens was saying his goodbyes. Moments after he walked out the door, his locker was emptied.
It's an emotional changing of the guard that happens all the time in baseball, the happiness of the player coming up being offset by the sadness of the player heading back to the minor leagues. This one, however, had a little extra poignancy.
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Hall was the feelgood story of the spring. He was 27 years old, a former 14th-round draft choice, with only limited big-league time and little prospect of that changing any time soon. Then Rhys Hoskins tore up his knee fielding a routine grounder in an exhibition game. Hall batted .315 in the Grapefruit League with five homers and a 1.041 OPS.
The left-handed-hitting Hall not only made the Opening Day roster but was projected to get the bulk of the playing time at first.
In his sixth game, he jammed his right thumb sliding into second base against the Yankees, an injury that required surgery.
Clemens was the next man up and he was a happy story, too. The son of seven-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens was 26 and also had few major-league at-bats to show for it. But he stepped in and through 34 games was hitting .270 with a .764 OPS. His ninth-inning double on June 8 gave the Phillies a walk-off win against the Tigers. But his production tailed off; he was hitting .230 when he was optioned to the IronPigs.
Said Hall: "It has been a rollercoaster, but I've just tried to ride it every step of the way. Just focus on what's my next goal. And that really kept me grounded and helped me focus on the right things. Not the scenario. That's really what got me to this point. The next thing is just perform, right? We're back to focusing on performing, which is a beautiful thing."
A rollercoaster ride generally starts with a long, slow climb to the peak and then a stomach-dropping plunge. That fits the arc of Hall's tale, but he insists he didn't let the rapid descent make him feel sorry for himself.
"You think about it a little bit," he admitted. "It's just unfortunate. But what can you do? Your job as a player is just to move forward and get back to what you do. That's the only thing I could focus on. Because if you thought about yourself in that instance, I feel it could take you on a downhill spiral. Versus, 'Hey, let's try to get some forward momentum here and just work our way back.'"
And, yes, he'll now wear sliding gloves on the bases.
Rob Thomson said the plan is for Hall to start against all right-handers and "occasionally" against lefties. When he doesn't start, third baseman Alec Bohn will continue to move over to first.
"He's playing better, probably, than he's ever played," the manager said. "It's time to go. He's just swinging the bat well. His at-bats are really good."
Of course, it remains an open question what will happen when Bryce Harper is cleared to play first base, which is expected to happen sometime after the All-Star Game but before the August 1 trade deadline.
Thomson said the two could "possibly" co-exist. It's also possible that Harper vacating the DH spot could put Kyle Schwarber in that role, which would create some open at-bats in left. Which could potentially punch a return ticket for Clemens, who will be asked to play second, third and left field at Lehigh Valley.
"I thought Kody did a great job," Thomson said. "Played really well for us defensively. Had some big hits for us. We want him to go down there and play different positions and then just be ready to go. He's a pro, he's a great teammate and a good player."