CLEARWATER, Fla. — Four years to the day after agreeing to a life-changing contract with the Phillies, Scott Kingery was the subject of a perfunctory spring training transaction.
“Reassigned to minor league camp.”
Kingery packed his bags Friday and was gone from the clubhouse before Kyle Gibson uncorked his first pitch here against the Yankees. The former top prospect will complete his recovery from right shoulder surgery last summer in the relative quiet of the back fields at the Carpenter Complex.
It was the latest indignity in Kingery’s fade from Next Big Thing status. It was also inevitable. He has been taking batting practice but only recently got cleared to ramp up his throwing program to 150 feet. Joe Girardi said the Phillies want him to begin getting at-bats as a designated hitter in minor-league spring training games.
So, no, this wasn’t as dramatic as last spring, when the Phillies shipped Kingery to triple A after he lost a wide-open center-field competition. Or last June, when they removed him from the 40-man roster.
But it was still jarring, especially considering the Phillies made a six-year, $24 million commitment to Kingery in 2018 before he played in a major-league game. He will make $6.25 million this year and $8.25 million next year regardless of where he plays and will count $4 million against the luxury tax.
Kingery isn’t buried with the Phillies, even if it sometimes seems like it. Girardi allowed for the possibility that he could eventually help as a versatile player off the bench. But the road back is only just beginning.
“I think there’s a lot of things that this kid can do when he gets right,” Girardi said. “He can play multiple positions, he can play one position if you want. We’ve just got to get him right.”
Unable to do most baseball activities after having anchors placed in his shoulder to repair a torn labrum that he said began to bother him in 2020, Kingery focused on his conditioning, getting leaner and faster.
Once the owners’ lockout ended and spring training began, he worked with hitting coach Kevin Long on rebuilding a swing path that became too long over the years as Kingery tried to develop more power.
“The goal is hard contact, line drives, gap-to-gap,” Kingery said in the first few days of spring training. “If I catch it in front, it’ll go in the air.”
Stott shines vs. Yankees
Top prospect Bryson Stott lined two solid singles to center field in the 6-5 victory over the Yankees, but neither represented his most impressive plate appearance.
Stott, a left-handed hitter, worked a six-pitch walk in the fourth inning against hard-throwing Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman, as tough a lefty as he will face. The 24-year-old shortstop is pushing to break camp with the Phillies. He has four hits in 10 spring at-bats.
“He’s looked really good at the plate,” Girardi said. “He’s just picked up where he left off in the [Arizona Fall League] and all year long last year. That’s not an easy at-bat [against Chapman]. I just love the way he swung the bat today.”
It’s a stark improvement from last spring, when Stott struggled in his first major-league camp. But he batted .299 with 16 homers and an .876 on-base plus slugging at three minor-league levels last season and starred in Arizona. The Phillies are giving him a chance to unseat veteran shortstop Didi Gregorius or perhaps push him to third base.
The biggest difference in Stott compared with last spring?
“He’s relaxed,” Girardi said.
Also notable in the game: center fielder Matt Vierling stroked a three-run double and made a diving catch; reliever Seranthony Domínguez touched 96 mph in a scoreless inning; and outfield prospect Ethan Wilson, last year’s second-round pick, drove in the go-ahead run with a seventh-inning single.
Zack Wheeler and Ranger Suárez are expected to pitch live batting practice Saturday and Sunday, respectively. ... The Phillies optioned outfielder Simon Muzziotti and right-hander James McArthur and reassigned righties Tyler Cyr and Jake Newberry to minor-league camp. ... Six months removed from left knee surgery, Zach Eflin will start Saturday against the Tigers in Lakeland. Eflin is in line to start the third game of the season, April 10 at home against the Athletics.