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landmark, six-year, $24 million contract in spring training, has spent the entire season in the majors but has recently been replaced by Asdrubal Cabrera as the team’s primary shortstop.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.”