ATLANTA — Now that the Phillies are finally through chasing the ghost of winning a division title, manager Gabe Kapler outlined a plan to restore playing time to the young players who were displaced by veterans acquired in the middle of the season.
Scott Kingery, come on down.
Making his sixth start in 15 games Sunday in a 2-1 loss to the Atlanta Braves, Kingery notched two hits, including his first home run since Aug. 24, and reached base three times in a game for the first time since July 12. And while it's too late for the 24-year-old infielder to salvage a trying rookie season, there's a benefit to taking a strong finish into the offseason.
"Anytime you can take some good swings and some good at-bats, it kind of reminds you an gives you confidence that you can do this," Kingery said. "The whole season has been ups and downs, and to be able to go out and do that today and hopefully ride that into the next seven games, it'll be good."
Kapler has been encouraged by what he has seen from Kingery over the past month. But Kingery was never able to get hot and had his role reduced after the Phillies traded for Asdrubal Cabrera on July 27.
Kingery, who entered the day with the fourth-lowest OPS (.594) of any player with at least 400 plate appearances, said he has struggled to maintain a solid plate approach. He insisted he hasn't been trying to lift the ball more than he did in the minors.
"To be honest, for me, it's a lot about feel," Kingery said. "I lost that feel, and obviously the talent up here is a lot better. You can't take a pitch down the middle and expect another one like you can in the minor leagues. [It's] just figuring out big-league pitching, and it's been a struggle. I thought I had to change things and got a little deep into my swing and tried to do too much, and I think just simplifying it is the answer."
Kapler said the Phillies might get a look at Kingery at second base, too, in the final week. Kingery played primarily second base in the minors but has made only two starts there this season, none since April 16.
Rookie catcher Jorge Alfaro left the game in the seventh inning with a strained right quadriceps. The Phillies characterized the injury as "mild," and Alfaro reported that it bothers him only when he comes out of his squat behind the plate.
"Just to be safe, we decided to take him out of the game and protect him," Kapler said. "It's something that we're going to monitor day to day."