DENVER — Scott Kingery, just as the Phillies were beginning to formulate a plan to keep him in the lineup, left Friday night’s game with a right hamstring injury.
He grabbed his hamstring and grimaced after grounding out to end the fourth inning. Kingery was visited at first base by the team’s training staff and walked off the field as he angrily ripped off his batting gloves and pounded his fists. It was easy to tell he was in pain.
Kingery started at shortstop, just as he did on Wednesday and Thursday. He was expected to be there again on Saturday and possibly on Sunday.
Earlier this week, the Phillies lost shortstop Jean Segura and center fielder Odubel Herrera to hamstring injuries. With Segura out, the Phillies found a way to get Kingery in the lineup. And he has earned his spot by getting 13 hits in his last 28 at-bats.
But finding regular playing time for him was expected to become more challenging next week, when Segura is expected to be healthy enough to return. Then, Segura, Maikel Franco, and Cesar Hernandez will play nearly everyday at shortstop, third base, and second base, respectively.
Kingery, when healthy, can move around the infield and fill in when those three need a rest, but the playing time will be far from regular. So, the Phillies were hoping to try him in the outfield, where he played sparingly last season, to keep him in the lineup.
“I think there’s more of a need to get him in the lineup because of how well he is performing,” manager Gabe Kapler said before Friday’s game. “It’s less of a ‘Let’s get him reps and keep him fresh’ thing and more of a ‘This helps us win’ thing.”
Kapler has longed to mold Kingery into a player like Chris Taylor, who started 128 games last season for the Dodgers while playing four positions. Kingery, a natural second baseman, can handle himself at shortstop and third base. He’s also the team’s emergency catcher. The next frontier is the outfield, where he started five games last season.
Kingery played center field in college, after he walked on at the University of Arizona, and he spent time in the outfield during spring training. He has worked before games with outfield coach Paco Figueroa.
Kapler reminded Kingery before Thursday’s series opener to make sure he gets his work in, since the Phillies thought Kingery could have played the outfield as early as Monday against the Mets.
“I think I can comfortably say that he will go out in center field and immediately play average to above-average center field,” Kapler said. “Simply because of his athleticism and his speed and because he’s been out there. It won’t be the first time he’s played center field.”