Phillies

Who goes to Triple A when Justin Bour arrives — Scott Kingery, J.P. Crawford, a reliever?

Who goes to Triple A when Justin Bour arrives — Scott Kingery, J.P. Crawford, a reliever?

SAN DIEGO — Justin Bour will be in uniform for the Phillies on Saturday night and Gabe Kapler is thrilled to have him.

“I envision him being a dynamic, power-hitting weapon off the bench,” the Phillies manager said Friday night, several hours after the team acquired the left-handed slugger from the Miami Marlins.

The Phillies cleared room for Bour on the 40-man roster by designating pitcher Jake Thompson for assignment.

Now comes the big question:

Who gets lopped from the 25-man roster to make room for Bour?

The Phillies could trim back their bullpen to seven relievers by sending one of them to the minors.

It’s more likely, however, that they trim from an area of depth. And with J.P. Crawford coming off the disabled list on Friday, the Phils have two middle infielders on their bench in Crawford and Scott Kingery.

The Phils could address their 25-man roster issue by sending one of those players to Triple A before Saturday’s game.

It might make sense simply to send Crawford out to get him some at-bats at an advanced level. He had just 28 plate appearances in the Florida State League before being activated after spending seven weeks on the disabled list with a broken left hand.

But it would also be completely understandable if the Phillies sent Kingery down. The rookie, who signed a landmark, six-year, $24 million contract in spring training, has spent the entire season in the majors but has recently been replaced by Asdrubal Cabrera as the team’s primary shortstop. Overall, Kingery is hitting just .223 with a .588 OPS. He has struck out 99 times and walked just 21. On top of it all, he is mired in an 0-for-20 slump that has coincided with his losing playing time to the recently acquired Cabrera. The Phillies sent Aaron Altherr down to regain his stroke so he could come back in September and be productive. Kingery's situation does not seem all that different — except for the large financial investment the team has made in him.

“We probably won't make any decisions until after we play tonight's game and see if that helps inform our decision at all,” general manager Matt Klentak said of the looming roster decision. “I think we've reached a point in the season where it's about winning baseball games. We've been pretty conscious all year long of trying to be competitive while also promoting development, and I think at this point we need to start focusing on winning baseball games. We're going to do whatever we have to do. If somebody gets sent out in the next three weeks, it's probably going to be only for a short period of time. When rosters expand on Sept. 1, a lot of the guys that are currently in Triple A will be back here. Whatever we end up doing is likely temporary.”

Kapler confirmed before Friday night’s game what has recently become obvious: Cabrera is his shortstop.

“Right now, it looks like Cabrera is going to play a good bit,” Kapler said. “And (third baseman) Mikey Franco has been really good for two months straight. So those guys have earned the opportunity in a playoff run to play quite a bit. So, for now, that’s how we see it.”

Kapler said he would use Bour whenever the game is on the line and a right-handed pitcher is on the mound.

“The longer we save him, the more likely we’re going to get a counter move,” Kapler said. “So we’ve got to pick the time as early as possible where he can do the most damage and deploy him.

“He’s fired up. He’s going to fit right in here. Our guys are excited to have him.”

Bour, 30, hit .227 with 19 homers, 54 RBIs and a .759 OPS for Miami this season. Four of those homers came against the Phillies. Last season, he hit .289 with 25 homers and 83 RBIs.

Bour has put up some big numbers in his career against the NL East. Against Atlanta, he has a .302 batting average, 13 homers, 42 RBIs and a 1.023 OPS. Against the Mets, he has a .276 batting average, nine homers, 29 RBIs and an .870 OPS. Against Washington, he has a .232 batting average with 11 homers, 37 RBIs and a .745 OPS.

The Phillies, who entered Friday leading the NL East by a game over the Braves, have 10 games remaining against the Mets, nine against the Nationals and seven against Atlanta.

“I think it’s worth noting that he’s really hurt the Braves,” Kapler said. “I think that matters.”

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2 unique pitching matchups await Phillies at Wrigley Field vs. Cubs

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2 unique pitching matchups await Phillies at Wrigley Field vs. Cubs

As the Phillies begin a seven-game road trip to Chicago and Milwaukee, two interesting pitching matchups await. 

In tonight’s series opener at Wrigley Field, former Cub Jake Arrieta opposes the pitcher his ex-team chose to pay instead of him: Yu Darvish. 

In Game 3 of the series, left-hander Cole Irvin is opposed by left-hander Cole Hamels in Hamels’ first-ever start against his former team. The Phillies are the lone MLB team Hamels has never faced. 

The Arrieta-Darvish comparison has been an interesting one. Neither pitcher has lived up to the price tag so far. 

In 40 starts as a Phillie, Arrieta is 14-15 with a 3.98 ERA and 1.30 WHIP. His ERA has been 7 percent better than the league average over that span. The Phils did not expect they were getting the Cy Young version of Arrieta, but expectations were certainly higher than an ERA barely better than 4.00 for the ninth-highest paid pitcher of all-time in annual salary. 

What Arrieta has given the Phillies that Darvish has not given the Cubs, though, is durability and consistency. Arrieta has allowed three runs or fewer in 23 of those 40 starts as a Phillie, keeping them in the game more often than not. The same cannot be said of Darvish, who has been limited to just 17 starts as a Cub and has a 5.05 ERA with them. 

Darvish missed most of last season because of injuries to his triceps and elbow. He pitched just 40 innings. 

This season, Darvish has struggled mightily to throw strikes. He’s walked 33 batters in 42 innings and completed six innings once in his nine starts. He’s still racking up the strikeouts, though, and is coming off a season-high 11 against the Reds. The previous two games, he walked 11. 

There is a lot of contract left for Darvish, but so far it’s played out like a major mistake for the Cubs, who did almost no spending this past offseason because of the big-money deals already on the books and the dough that will soon need to go to Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and eventually Willson Contreras. 

Between Darvish and Jason Heyward, the Cubs committed a total of $310 million and an average of $44 million per year. Those two contracts are two major examples of why free agents are being paid differently these days.

Last June when the Phillies went to Wrigley Field, Arrieta did not pitch. He didn’t face the Cubs at home, either, so this will be the first matchup since his departure. The best days of Arrieta’s career came in Chicago and he’s still beloved there for the no-hitters, the Cy Young season and World Series ring. And he doesn’t hold any ill will toward the Cubs for making the choice they made last winter. 

"I knew that there was always an opportunity to come back here until I signed with another team," Arrieta said in the visiting dugout at Wrigley last summer. "It was a very chaotic offseason for free agents, not only myself but everybody involved. When Theo (Epstein) did call, it seemed like it could've been a possibility but just the way it all went down, I was leaning more and more to the side of probably not returning to Chicago. 

"Would it have been great if I signed here? Yes. Am I happy with the way things worked out ultimately signing with the Phillies? Absolutely."

Tonight begins an important series of starts for Arrieta, whose next three opponents will be the Cubs, Brewers and Cardinals, three of the best offenses in the National League. Despite the degree of difficulty, these are the kinds of games a contending team hopes to get quality starts from its $75 million man.

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Will we see Scott Kingery start in center field regularly?

Will we see Scott Kingery start in center field regularly?

Sunday was Scott Kingery’s first career start in center field and it came in his first game back. Kingery was sidelined for a month with a hamstring strain that was worse than the ones suffered by Jean Segura and Odubel Herrera. 

Kingery fared well in his return. There were no issues in the field, and at the plate he went 1 for 3 with a walk and a stolen base. The hit was a smooth line drive to left field in his first at-bat. 

With Herrera not providing much at the plate (.234 batting average, .297 OBP), Kingery will continue to see time in center field. It doesn’t make sense right now to sit Cesar Hernandez for him given how hot Hernandez has been for the last month. But Herrera and Maikel Franco are different stories. 

Kingery will not start Monday night in Chicago. The Phillies are monitoring his workload with him fresh off the IL. He will, however, likely start multiple games in the Cubs series. The Phillies face lefties Jose Quintana, Cole Hamels and Jon Lester in consecutive games Tuesday through Thursday. Seems like a logical spot to sit Herrera for Kingery. 

Kingery was hitting .406 when he was sidelined. He started the season looking like a completely different player than last season. 

“The most important thing (while I was out) was trying to keep my timing,” Kingery said after the Phillies’ 7-5 win over the Rockies Sunday. “As soon as I could pick up the bat I was in the cage, working on my swing, fastball machine, doing whatever I could, seeing live arms BP-wise and stood in on a few bullpens just to see some different pitches. That's about all you can do when you're hurt. I feel good now.”

Defensively, Kingery will face some adjustments. Center field is not his natural position nor does he have extensive experience there. But his speed, range and instincts give him a chance to be an above-average defender there. 

“I think the main goal is my arm slot has always been for an infielder,” Kingery said. “So I have to work at getting a little more over the top and get a little more carry on the ball. I'd say that's one of the most important things for me right now.”

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