CHICAGO — After a one-month absence, shortstop J.P. Crawford is poised to rejoin the Phillies, a development that figures to return rookie Scott Kingery to a super-utility role.
Crawford has been reinstated from the 10-day disabled list, the Phillies announced Wednesday, and could be in the lineup for the continuation of a three-game series against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. He has been out since April 28 because of a strained right forearm.
The Phillies transferred Crawford's minor-league rehab assignment to triple-A Lehigh Valley on Tuesday night, and he went 1 for 4 with an RBI double and a walk in nine innings at shortstop. Manager Gabe Kapler had indicated Crawford's return could be imminent depending on how he emerged from that test.
Kingery has been the primary shortstop since Crawford was sidelined. The Phillies were hoping that stability at one position, albeit a position he hadn't played regularly since high school, would enable Kingery to heat up at the plate. But the 24-year-old went 21 for 100 (.210) with four doubles, one triple, four walks and 20 strikeouts.
While Crawford was healthy, Kingery played six positions: his natural second base, shortstop, third base and all three outfield spots. Shuffling between positions is a difficult role for any player, but especially a rookie with only one season of experience above the triple-A level. Nevertheless, Kapler likely will revert to using Kingery at multiple positions, with a chance for more opportunities in the outfield as long as left fielder Rhys Hoskins remains on the disabled list because of a fractured jaw.
But Crawford also will have to hit to stay in the lineup every day. Before his injury, he was batting only .188 with three doubles, two home runs, four walks and 19 strikeouts in 64 at-bats. And Kingery demonstrated defensive improvement at shortstop over the past month, gaining greater stability as he got more repetitions at the position.
If neither Crawford nor Kingery produces at the plate, the Phillies could make a play for Baltimore Orioles star shortstop Manny Machado before the July 31 trade deadline. Last week, one National League talent evaluator guessed the Orioles will be hard-pressed to get more than one prized prospect for Machado given his looming free agency. The Detroit Tigers were in a similar predicament last year with J.D. Martinez and settled for a package of three lower-level minor leaguers, only one of whom ranked among the Arizona Diamondbacks' top 10 prospects.
To open a spot for Crawford on the active roster, the Phillies optioned infielder Mitch Walding to Lehigh Valley. Walding went 0 for 6 with six strikeouts over three games since getting called up last week.