CINCINNATI — Scott Kingery arrived Saturday afternoon at Great American Ball Park to see his name out of the starting lineup as the arrival of Asdrubal Cabrera — for one night, at least — sent Kingery to the bench.
Kingery had started at shortstop for 62 of the previous 70 games. He opened the season as a utility player, moving among six positions during his first three weeks in the majors. But he has pretty much been the team's everyday shortstop since the end of April. That changed Friday when the Phillies received the 32-year-old Cabrera from the Mets.
"I'm just going to show up and go about it the same way I do every day," Kingery said. "Obviously, he's a huge help to our lineup. Good bat, can hit from both sides, so that's big for us. If that means switching back and forth or I go back into a utility role, I don't know what's going to happen. But I'm just going to show up and do what I do every day."
Manager Gabe Kapler told Kingery that "he's going to play a lot of shortstop" and that Kingery will likely start there on Sunday. But Kingery will also likely see time at other positions. Kingery will likely go back to that utility role and also give the Phillies a solid option off the bench. Kapler said Cabrera will play some third base, second base, and even left field. But, from an offensive view, it would seem challenging to give Cabrera many reps outside of shortstop, unless Maikel Franco stumbled at third base or Cesar Hernandez stopped reaching base and Rhys Hoskins stopped hitting home runs.
Cabrera is graded as the worst defensive infielder in the majors and the Phillies, using defensive runs saved as a measure, have the second-worst defense in all of baseball. Saturday was Cabrera's first game this year at shortstop, a position he has not played full time since 2016. The Phillies are placing a premium on his bat — Cabrera had a .817 OPS with the Mets this season — over his glove.
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"The first thing to do is he had a really good year at shortstop in '16. He played some shortstop last year. He's 32 years old. He's got a long track record of playing the position," Kapler said. "So while we're just looking at it for today's lineup, we've got a fly ball pitcher [Vince Velasquez] on the mound and we're very confident that he can handle the balls that are in his vicinity. He doesn't have the same range that he once did, but we're also thinking about that and mitigating risk by putting him at shortstop at the right time. He's going to play all around the diamond."
Kingery had a challenging transition to shortstop, a position he played just 18 innings in the minors before playing there in the majors. But Kingery was beginning to look comfortable. He has a strong arm and good range. It was not his defense but rather his lack of offensive production that forced the Phillies to get Cabrera. Kingery entered Friday with just a .618 OPS, the second-lowest mark in the National League.
"He's going to be one of the guys that we lean on going forward," Kapler said of Kingery. "The last thing I said is, 'I've never had more confidence in you than I have in you right now.' That's based on the defender that he's become at shortstop. It's based on the recent stretch of at-bats where he's looking more confident and squaring up the baseball more frequently. He'll continue to get that message from me."