The Phillies flew Sunday night into Chicago feeling pretty good about themselves. What a difference a few days can make. They were dominated by the Brewers early last week and responded by sweeping the Rockies. Even better, Bryce Harper’s bat seems to have awakened.
Jake Arrieta and Cole Hamels, two pitchers who helped title-starved franchises win World Series championships, will face their old teams for the first time in the four-game series at Wrigley Field. It should be a fun week. And then: The Phillies will trek up to Milwaukee for a chance at revenge against the Brewers.
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Scott Kingery did not have to wait long to see his name in the Phillies lineup after recovering from a hamstring strain. He returned to the majors Sunday morning and started in the afternoon.
He started in center field for the time in the 7-5 win over the Rockies, and it could be something to get used to. The Phillies want Kingery in their lineup, and it seems that most of his reps could come in center. Odubel Herrera will be out there Monday night at Wrigley Field, but the Phillies will then face three straight left-handed starters, which seems to be a good chance to play Kingery.
“Just getting ready for wherever they are going to put me and try to work hard on being the best I can at whatever position they want to use me in,” Kingery said.
Kingery’s natural position is second base, but he was an outfielder in college at Arizona and has played nine games there in the majors. Manager Gabe Kapler said last week that Kingery will be asked to play nearly every position. The corner outfield spots are claimed by Andrew McCutchen and Bryce Harper. Jean Segura plays nearly every day at shortstop, and second baseman Cesar Hernandez has been one of the team’s best hitters recently despite some defensive shortcomings.
That leaves third base or center field as Kingery’s most likely position. Herrera has a .258 on-base percentage in his last 62 plate appearances, and the lefthanded-heavy series provides an easy chance to find him some rest.
“I think the main goal is my arm slot has always been for an infielder, so I have to work at getting a little more over the top and get a little more carry on the ball,” Kingery said of adjusting to the outfield. “I'd say that's one of the most important things for me right now.”
Kingery’s injury came at an inopportune time as he had 13 hits in his first 32 at-bats before straining his hamstring on April 19. He went 1-for-3 in his return Sunday and has looked much more comfortable at the plate this season than he did during last year’s challenging rookie season.
“The most important thing was trying to keep timing,” Kingery said. “And 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. The games in the minors have to go good, and I feel good now.”
Jake Arrieta returned last season to Wrigley Field, but this year will be different because the former Cubs star will face his former team for the first time. It will be more than a homecoming as the Phillies need Arrieta, who has a 6.14 ERA in his last four starts, to pitch the way he did early in the season. “There is definitely an excitement about it,” Arrieta said of returning to Wrigley.
Another day, another Bryce Harper home run. Bob Brookover was at the ballpark when Harper’s two-run homer Sunday helped seal a three-game sweep of the Rockies, who had handled the Phillies earlier this year at Coors Field. Harper had two hits for the second straight game, and Kapler believes Harper is out of his funk.
What does $330 million get you? The kind of clutch production you saw Sunday from Bryce Harper, Marcus Hayes writes. Harper entered his sixth-inning at-bat 4-for-22 against Rockies reliever Mike Dunn. “But 4-for-22 earns you no sympathy. Three hundred and thirty million dollars affords no excuses. They pay you, you put up. And he did,” Hayes writes.
Tonight: Jake Arrieta returns to Wrigley Field, 8:05 p.m.
Tomorrow: Zach Eflin faces Jose Quintana, 7:05 p.m.
Wednesday: Cole Irvin vs. Cole Hamels, 8:05 p.m.
Thursday: Aaron Nola starts the series finale, 2:20 p.m.
The Phillies gave away their first bobblehead on this day in 2001. The giveaway looked more like a generic baseball player than it did of Pat Burrell, who was then in his second season.
The Phillies will give away a Chase Utley bobblehead on June 21, a Ryan Howard bobblehead on July 14, and an Aaron Nola bobblehead on Aug. 18. Eighteen years after their debut, the giveaways no longer look like generic players.
Send questions by email or on Twitter @matt_breen.
Question: My question is about Odubel Herrera. When will Gabe Kapler have seen enough of him? I realize that Roman Quinn cannot be counted upon but why not move Andrew McCutchen to CF for a couple of weeks and see what Nick Williams can do with some regular AB’s? He can’t possibly do any worse than Odubel.
— Jim L. via email
Answer: Thanks, Jim. Since May 20 of last season, Herrera is batting .220 with a .637 OPS. The only Phillies player with a lower OPS in that time span was Aaron Altherr, who was designated for assignment. Herrera has the track record of being an All-Star, but he can no longer be considered as an automatic start in center field.
This might be the real Herrera and not the one who was so electric before that. Nick Williams was wasting away on the bench and will benefit from playing every day in triple A. Herrera’s struggles will open up a chance for Kingery, who can be a super utility player if needed but only can benefit from having a set position.