The Phillies are sending Scott Kingery to the minor leagues to try to work out his swing and work his way back to the majors.
Kingery was optioned to the minors on Sunday afternoon along with left-handed reliever JoJo Romero and catcher Rafael Marchan.
Kingery did not have a good camp, going 7 for 44 (.159) with 19 strikeouts. He was involved in the Phillies’ center field battle and was also in play for a super-utility role if Brad Miller couldn’t recover from an oblique strain by opening day, but Kingery didn’t hit enough to win the CF job and Miller was back in the lineup Sunday.
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"Scott’s trying to make some swing adjustments," Joe Girardi said during the game broadcast. "I believe Scotty can be an All-Star, I really believe that. We’re just trying to get him back to being that line-drive hitter. This way, he can go work on it, there’s not so much pressure on every at-bat. We think we’re going to get back a really good player."
This is not the path of development the Phillies envisioned when they signed Kingery before the 2018 season and before he’d ever played a major-league game to a six-year, $24 million contract.
He is due $4 million this season, $6 million in 2022, $8 million in 2023 and the Phillies hold club options for 2024, 2025 and 2026.
In three seasons, Kingery has hit .233/.284/.393 with nearly five times as many strikeouts as walks. His big-league career has been a struggle save for his first 50 games in 2019. Kingery’s 2020 season was a lost one as he dealt with a rough bout of COVID in June, which affected his ramp-up time and prevented him from finding his footing.
Kingery was a dynamic player as he ascended the Phillies’ minor-league ladder to position himself to sign that unique contract. He hit for average, showed gap power, affected games with his legs and played good defense at second base. It just hasn’t all clicked at the highest level. Altering his approach to try to lift the ball as a major-leaguer produced poor results for Kingery, and Girardi asked Kingery this spring to shorten it.
For now, Kingery will be in the Phillies’ auxiliary camp, training and playing in games until either the Triple A season begins in early May, or unless he’s needed in the big leagues.
"We want to move him around a little bit, play him at second and shortstop," Girardi said. "He’ll get a chance to do that at the alternate site."
It looks like the Phillies’ opening day center field spot will go to either Odubel Herrera or Roman Quinn. Quinn was not in the lineup Saturday or Sunday with what the Phillies believed is food poisoning. If he has to miss any time, Adam Haseley could factor into the plans. Haseley returned this week from a groin injury and hit a three-run double Saturday.
It would seem that the Phillies can’t carry all three of Herrera, Quinn and Haseley on the opening day roster because two would be on the bench and they’d also be carrying Miller, Matt Joyce and Andrew Knapp. They’d be without a backup shortstop in that situation, even though Miller has some innings there. This is why Ronald Torreyes could crack the roster as a utility man.
The Phillies on Sunday also released catcher Christian Bethancourt, and reassigned outfielder Travis Jankowski and catcher Rodolfo Duran to minor-league camp.