Scott Kingery will eventually be the Philadelphia Phillies starting second baseman. But the Phillies don’t plan to utilize Kingery as their everyday second baseman when he returns from the injured list.
Friday, Phillies manager Gabe Kapler told the collective media, which included Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia, that after successfully running the bases and fielding ground balls before Friday night’s loss to the Kansas City Royals, Kingery could begin a minor league rehab stint early next week. Additionally, Kapler said that the Phillies plan to use Kingery in the super-utility role when he returns, so he’ll play at second base, shortstop, third base and center field during his rehab stint, per Salisbury.
Kingery, 25, strained his right hamstring running out a ground ball on April 19 in Colorado. The Phillies had planned to give Kingery a look in center field once they left Coors Field, which is a rather large outfield. That obviously didn’t happen, and now Odubel Herrera, the starting center fielder, is off the injured list.
Still, don’t be surprised if Kingery begins to take some at-bats from Herrera – who has just three hits in 20 at-bats since returning from his own hamstring injury – when he is ultimately activated. Kingery will take some at-bats from Cesar Hernandez at his natural position of second base. But Hernandez, the longest-tenured Phillie, is hitting .423 in May. As long as he’s that hot, the Phillies aren’t going to be eager to take him out of the lineup. And for as much as Kingery grew defensively at shortstop in 2019, Jean Segura has been the Phillies most consistent hitter in 2019, so there won’t be a ton of opportunities there.
Depending upon how Herrera plays, there will be opportunities for Kingery in center field, especially in lower-stress outfields. Kapler opened Spring Training by saying that Kingery was going to compete with Maikel Franco for time at third base. Franco had seven home runs in the first month of the season, but his batting average in May is just .200. And while Herrera was out, the Phillies asked left fielder Andrew McCutchen, now 32, to play more in center field than they would have envisioned prior to the season. That his batting average in 2019 has dipped to .235 is perhaps a sign that the Phillies need to find a way to get him more days off so he stays fresh throughout the course of his first season with the Phillies.
On days that Kingery doesn’t start for the Phillies, he could be used as a pinch-hitter, pinch-runner or defensive replacement late in games. The reason Kingery makes sense in the super-utility role – a role that Ben Zobrist and Marwin Gonzalez, among others, have thrived in – is because he’s proven to be able to adjust defensively to wherever the Phillies ask him to play.
After a disappointing offensive output during his rookie year of 2018, Kingery was hitting .406 in 32 at-bats prior to being placed on the injured list. That is an extremely small sample size, but make no mistake, if he continues to shine offensively, the Phillies will find a way to get him into the lineup pretty close to every day.
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