DENVER — Scott Kingery made his third straight start at shortstop for the Phillies on Friday night. He has been filling in for Jean Segura, who has been nursing a minor hamstring injury.
“My inclination, though I’m not swearing by it, is to start Scott again [Saturday night] at shortstop,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “We’re potentially targeting Sunday as a day to get Jean back in the lineup.”
Once Segura is ready, he will get most of the reps at shortstop. The Phillies didn’t trade for him so he could split time.
So what happens with Kingery, who has swung the bat very well in limited time this season?
Kapler indicated that Kingery would fill the super-utility role that the organization envisioned when it signed him to a six-year, $24 million contract in the spring of 2018.
“I think there’s more of a need to get him in the lineup because of how well he’s performing,” Kapler said. “It’s less of a ‘let’s get him reps to keep him fresh thing,’ and more of a, ‘this helps us win thing.’
“His reps could come at shortstop here and there. They could come in the outfield here and there. He certainly has emerged as an option at second and third base.”
Kingery played some outfield at the University of Arizona and he’s played some in spring training. He played briefly in all three outfield spots for the Phils last season and picked up a few innings in left field earlier this season.
Kapler has talked a lot in recent days about using Kingery in center field at times. With Odubel Herrera on the disabled list with a sore hamstring for at least another nine days, it would not be surprising to see Kingery get a start at the position sometime next week. Roman Quinn seemingly will get most of the playing time in center while Herrera is out, but Kapler has indicated that Quinn will not get all the time there.
During batting practice on Thursday, Kapler reminded Kingery to keep up on his pre-game work in center field. That would seem to support the idea that Kingery will get a look there soon.
Clearly the Phillies want to see Kingery play center field because they believe his versatility is valuable and it presents a way to get his bat in the lineup while giving other players rest. (It also doesn’t hurt to have both him and Quinn putting some heat on Herrera.) But it’s also possible that the Phils want to gauge Kingery’s ability to play center field because they will have to make a roster move when Herrera is ready to return. One possibility is trading Aaron Altherr. If he goes, the Phillies would lose some center field depth.
Kingery made significant strides defensively at shortstop last season. Kapler believes he has the same potential for growth in center field.
“I think I can comfortably say that he will go out in center field and immediately play average to above average center field simply because of his athleticism and speed,” Kapler said.
Kingery entered Friday night hitting .414 (12 for 29) with four doubles, two homers and a 1.227 OPS. As a rookie last year, Kingery hit just .226 with a .605 OPS. He has credited his improvement to gaining experience, taking some of the lift out of his swing — in his words, “flattening” it — and being more aggressive early in the count.
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