LAS VEGAS — General manager Matt Klentak was fairly forthcoming before the Phillies arrived at the winter meetings about his team’s desire to add a left-handed starting pitcher to balance an exclusively right-handed rotation. But manager Gabe Kapler said Monday that he does not want the team to add a left-hander just for the sake of creating balance.
“My personal take on the matter is I would prefer a very good starter to a left- or a right-handed starter,” Kapler said. "So obviously it makes our rotation more balanced if we have a left-handed starter in it. But I wouldn’t take a left-handed starter who was inferior to a right-handed starter, just because he’s left-handed. Additionally, if there’s a right-handed pitcher available, whether it be in the bullpen or in the rotation, who gets lefties out, don’t think it matters if he’s left-handed or right-handed. What matters is he gets lefties out.”
The Phillies shied away last week from left-hander Patrick Corbin after the Nationals offered him a six-year contract. They could make a push for J.A. Happ, but left-hander Dallas Keuchel is likely seeking a contract as long as Corbin’s. The Phillies used a left-handed starter last season for the first time since September 2016 — and only in three games. It is all but certain that they will add a starting pitcher before 2019. But the manager is not worried about the hand with which the pitcher throws.
Kapler called Scott Kingery last week after the Phillies added Jean Segura to inform him that the shortstop’s arrival means that Kingery will continue to move around the diamond the way he did last season.
“He said, ‘OK, I get it,’ ” Kapler said. “And that’s a challenge for a young player who just finished his first full season in the major leagues. I think Scott Kingery can handle anything. I don’t think it’s too tough for him. And I think last year was a major challenge. And in some ways, I think that there were some moments where he struggled as a result. At the same time, like, I’m not worried about his ability to tackle this. I wasn’t worried about his ability to tackle it last year.”
Kingery’s struggles last season were more at the plate than in the field as he batted just .226 with a .605 OPS in 452 at-bats. A second baseman in the minors, Kingery played mostly shortstop and seemed to grow defensively as the season rolled on. But his bat, which had made so much noise in the minors, never seemed to catch up.
“I think he learned a lot about his offensive profile,” Kapler said. “He shared that. I think he felt like he got in the habit last year of trying to see more pitches and fit into the deep-count lineup that we had, when the way to do that for him, and I think he knows this, is to be aggressive early in the count.”