Whatever the reason for Scott Kingery’s absence from the Phillies lineup for four consecutive games, it apparently isn’t enough to land him on the injured list.
Clearly, though, it’s not nothing, either.
Manager Joe Girardi said Friday that Kingery is “not hurt.” But the Phillies’ once-and-future utilityman referenced “a shoulder thing and a back thing” that have hampered him recently in the aftermath of a month-long tussle with COVID-19 that delayed his arrival at training camp last month.
Kingery was careful not to use physical hindrances -- “just little things that nag at me,” he called them -- as an excuse for his 4-for-40 start to the season. At the very least, though, they help explain why he has not looked much like the player who the Phillies believe will be a core member of their next playoff team.
"I don't know if it's related to COVID or if it was me missing 10 days of summer camp and jumping right back into things," Kingery said before the Phillies opened a three-game series against the New York Mets at Citizens Bank Park. "I might have tweaked something in the process of coming back faster than normal."
Kingery said he initially felt tightness in his back, which led to his putting undue pressure on his left shoulder. There isn’t structural damage to the shoulder, according to Kingery. But it’s annoying enough to likely be a disruption when he swings.
The Phillies can’t say for sure whether Kingery’s balky back might have been a byproduct of COVID-19. Per MLB protocols, he saw a cardiologist before being cleared for training camp to rule out heart problems such as myocarditis, the COVID-connected ailment that sidelined Boston Red Sox pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez for the season.
Kingery checked out fine, but he has reported occasional shortness of breath since he reported to camp July 11. Asked this week if there’s reason to believe Kingery has lingering effects from the virus, general manager Matt Klentak said, “We don’t know. There’s not a lot of data and history of professional athletes coming back from COVID -- and particularly like Scott, who had a pretty serious case.”
"Energy level is something that affected me when I had COVID and it's still, I don't think, back to completely normal," Kingery said. "Shortness of breath is getting better day by day. It's still not back to 100 percent, but it's close. We've been kind of throwing back and forth the idea of whether these injuries were from COVID or if it was from overworking too fast."
Girardi conceded that Kingery has dealt with “a little bit of fatigue” but nothing out of the ordinary and certainly nothing to warrant a stint on the injured list.
“Is there anything really bothering him?” Girardi said “No, he feels good.”
When Kingery does get back in the lineup, it won’t be as the full-time second baseman. With the promotion Thursday of prized third-base prospect Alec Bohm, the Phillies plan to move Jean Segura to second base and revert to using Kingery at multiple positions, including center field.
As much as Kingery wants to play one position, Girardi said “he had no issues” with moving around the field.
"I just think everything's amplified because there's no time to figure things out this year," Kingery said. "I come in and don't perform for the first 10 games. Things change. And I completely understand that. With a 162-game season, you have a little more leeway to have a slow start. But I completely understand that this year's different. How it's being handled is kind of what I expected."
Andrew McCutchen served as the Phillies’ designated hitter for the second game in a row. He was replaced in left field in the ninth inning of the previous two games, notable if only because he’s 14 months removed from surgery on the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.
“I think as we go along, during the course of season, you’ll see him move better and better,” Girardi said. “I think there’s some hesitancy, and I think there are certain things that you can’t simulate no matter how hard you try. The starting and the stopping seems to be the most difficult part for him. Once he gets going, he seems to be fine. So we will continue to try to work on all that while he is playing.”