Scott Kingery spent 25 days in the big leagues this season yet had just 19 at-bats before suffering a concussion. His swing, which Kingery started retooling in the offseason, was not ready for major-league pitching. He had just one hit and spent three weeks as a deep reserve.
The Phillies had planned to keep Kingery in triple A, where he could have played every day and worked on the swing that once made him the team’s top prospect. But a rash of injuries instead forced them to stash Kingery on their big-league bench as they called him to and from the minor leagues.
“He was going up and down and up and down, you kind of get stagnant in your progress and maybe even go backwards because you’re not able to get live reps,” Rhys Hoskins said Wednesday before the game with Atlanta. “... He just needs to play baseball and get back to being the baseball player that he was. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s back here sooner than we think.”
As jarring as Monday’s transaction was — every team in baseball passed on Kingery when he cleared waivers and was removed from the 40-man roster — it was perhaps the only way for a once premier prospect to find his way.
Off the roster, Kingery will now play every day at triple A like the Phillies originally planned. And his roster status means he likely won’t be the first player called to the majors in a pinch. He’ll be able to settle in with the IronPigs.
“I think things will be more consistent and that can help him. Sometimes, things change but I think it has the opportunity to be more consistent,” Joe Girardi said. “... I think there’s still a ton of potential there. He’s a very athletic player who has a huge upside. The fact that we were able to keep him was a plus. So let’s just get him going.”
The Phillies asked Kingery this spring to level his swing and hit more line drives after he hit just .159 with a .511 OPS in 124 plate appearances last season. They gave him a chance to win the starting job in center field, but he failed to even make the roster.
He was in the big leagues before the end of April when Jean Segura was injured and stuck around when Didi Gregorius went down. Kingery struggled in a limited role, and no team wanted to assume the roughly $17.5 million he is owed through 2023.
So he went to triple A, where the Phillies will let Kingery work on his swing the way they planned to two months ago.
“There’s been plenty written about the swing changes that he’s trying to go through and I can attest to that. Those things take time,” Hoskins said. “The best thing and the only thing that’s going to get you over the hump with that is live reps.”
Williams in center
Luke Williams can play nearly every position, which means he’ll be used by the Phillies in the super-utility role Kingery once handled.
Kingery’s offensive struggles were often attributed to the grind of playing a different position every day and the pregame work that went into doing that. Girardi said the Phillies are aware of that with how they’re treating Williams, who started Wednesday night in center.
“What you try to do is prepare him for where they’re going to play. I told him last night that he was playing center field,” Girardi said. “If he’s playing second one day or short, I’ll tell him the night before so he can do his work. Or for example, if I know we have a day game, I’ll tell him a couple days in advance so he knows and can get work there.”
Williams played every position in the minors except pitcher and catcher. And the Phillies plan to use him nearly everywhere. Girardi called him “a very valuable player.”
“I want to keep his at-bats going and move him around a lot. He’s obviously had a great year so far up to this point with triple A and the USA team,” Girardi said. “I don’t want him to sit for long periods of time because we’re going to use him to pinch hit and double switch and he needs to get at-bats.”
Gregorius nears return
Gregorius started a rehab assignment Wednesday night with triple-A Lehigh Valley, meaning he could return in time for next week’s road trip to Los Angeles and San Francisco. He has not played since May 12 because of a swollen right elbow.
Zack Wheeler will start Thursday afternoon’s series finale against Atlanta right-hander Ian Anderson. ... Spencer Howard and Vince Velasquez will start this weekend in a two-game series against the Yankees. ...The Phillies will have to clear a 40-man roster spot before Adam Haseley comes off the restricted list on Saturday. The Phils can keep Haseley in triple A after he returns from the restricted list.