A few nights ago, as he stood on second base after lining a double, Scott Kingery received a special delivery in the form of a protective brace for his hand while he ran the bases.
An injury? More like a deterrent.
Kingery did jam his fingers on a slide a few weeks ago but said he's no longer hampered by the injury. He wanted to wear the brace, though, to "make sure it doesn't happen again."
Here's another thing the Phillies rookie would rather not repeat: a three-week stretch in which he has gone 10-for-52 (.192) with a .236 on-base percentage. And while you wouldn't know it by looking at the numbers — Kingery has four hits in his last 25 at-bats — he insists he feels a hot streak coming on.
"The biggest thing for me right now is I feel hitterish again in the box," said Kingery, who wasn't in Friday night's lineup but took over at third base in the seventh and drew a walk and flied out to right. "It's a feeling that I lost for a minute."
"Right now, it still may look like I'm struggling, but for me, the past week or so, it's been a huge step," Kingery continued. "It's been the best I've been in a long time, so for me, it feels great. I'm excited to get up to bat now. Even if the results don't look like it, I feel like I've made some hard contact, got myself in better hitter counts. I think I'm taking a step forward."
Kingery has been striking out less (four times in his last 20 plate appearances). And manager Gabe Kapler pointed to a four-pitch walk Wednesday night against the Atlanta Braves as "really good progress."
In addition, Kingery is feeling more comfortable at shortstop, a position he hasn't played regularly since high school. After shuttling among six positions through the season's first few weeks, Kingery has been filling in for shortstop J.P. Crawford, who continues to make steady, if slow, progress from a strained right forearm by taking grounders, making throws and getting a few at-bats in extended spring training in Clearwater, Fla.
Kingery concedes that returning to shortstop was a challenge, particularly because the longer throw requires a different arm angle than he uses as a second baseman. But the results have been respectable. By defensive runs saved, a metric produced by Baseball Info Solutions, he grades as one run worse than average.
"The biggest thing for me is the arm angle," Kingery said. "At second base, you can kind of flip it over there because it's pretty close. [Shortstop] is just a more aggressive position. That's probably the biggest change."
Said Kapler: "It's a work in progress because he doesn't have a whole lot of reps there over the long haul, but I think athletically he's doing a great job. I think he's got everything it takes to be a good shortstop in this league."