Phils’ Kingery appreciates road to big league camp
Life could have been completely different had Scott Kingery not had so much faith in himself.
“Every time I think about it, it’s pretty crazy,” he said.
Kingery, 22, played second base and hit seventh Thursday in a 6-0 victory (in seven innings) against the University of Tampa at Spectrum Field, the Phillies’ final tune-up before they play the Yankees in Friday’s Grapefruit League opener in Tampa, Fla. Kingery, who is the No. 7 second-base prospect in baseball, according to MLBPipeline.com, impressed defensively. He also went 1-for-3.
“Kingery looked good at second,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. “He made a play to his left and a play to his right and turned a nice double play. I really like his fielding mechanics.”
A little more than five years ago, Kingery sent emails to a few Division I college coaches, looking for an opportunity to play. He had made a commitment with Central Arizona College, a junior college, but he believed he had Division I talent.
“Come see me play this summer,” he asked.
The University of Arizona did and liked what it saw. Kingery got a call a couple weeks before classes started there in the fall of 2012. He had a spot as a preferred walk-on.
Kingery ultimately made the team and played his freshman and sophomore seasons in the outfield. He then moved to second base as a junior, and the Phillies selected him in the second round of the 2015 Draft.
Kingery thinks the move to second might have helped him in the Draft, too.
“I think [second base] is more of a position that I can see myself at in the Major Leagues,” Kingery said. “You see big home run hitters in the outfield. Not so much center field, center field has quick guys, but I think coming into second base, it’s my natural position. It just lets me show off what I have.”
Kingery projects as a top-of-the-lineup hitter with speed. Don’t forget about that defense, either.
Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said if Jeremy Hellickson, Clay Buchholz jersey, Jerad Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez and Aaron Nola are healthy at the end of camp, they should be in the rotation. That would leave right-handers Asher, Jake Thompson, Zach Eflin, Mark Appel, Ben Lively and Nick Pivetta and left-hander Adam Morgan looking to crack the Triple-A Lehigh Valley rotation — again, if everybody is healthy. Eflin missed a bullpen session Friday because of swelling in his right knee, and Thompson is a week behind schedule because of a sore right wrist.
Mackanin already said Morgan could make the team as a reliever, but it is not out of the question that another starter in that group, like Asher, could be placed in the Phillies’ bullpen.
“Would it behoove us to think about that? Of course,” Phillies pitching coach Bob McClure said. “And there’s probably a couple of them you’d have to look at that way.”
McClure started in the Minor Leagues before the Royals promoted him to their bullpen in 1975. He remained there until cracking the Brewers’ rotation in ’80.
“I did it and it helped,” said McClure, who had a 19-year career. “It got to the point where I felt that I would rather be in relief — short, long, middle or whatever — in the big leagues than a starter in Triple-A. I just wanted to be in the big leagues and pitch against the best. Sometimes I think it’s a good way to break guys in anyway.”
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Baseball is littered with successful starting pitchers who spent time early in their careers as relievers. Jim Palmer, Pedro Martinez, Kenny Rogers, Derek Lowe, Dave Stewart and David Wells are just a few.
“I was always asking to start,” McClure said. “When they changed managers, I told them I would like to start. But I was at  games in relief before I started, which really helped because the game slowed down. Bases loaded, no outs? I’m good, man. Been here, done that. So it helped me as a starter. As a coach, I look at it that way. It doesn’t mean you’re not going to start, it means you’re not starting now.”
“Now, I can’t tell you some of the things he says about the players,” Kruk joked. “No, there’s going to be some studying. I watch enough that it ain’t going to be that hard. I’ll figure it out. … Put it this way, I’ll probably train harder for this than when I was playing.”
Asked about the difference between broadcasting locally vs. nationally, Kruk said, “No ties. That’s a blessing.
“If I say this I’m going to get in trouble, but I’ll say it anyway. I’m not big on meetings. We had a lot of them up there (at ESPN). A whole bunch. Incessant phone calls. I didn’t answer most. It’s pretty rude when somebody’s hitting and you’re answering your phone while playing golf.”
Speaking of getting into trouble, will it be easy for Kruk to speak bluntly about the Phillies, then board a cross-country flight with the team’s cheap jerseys?
“I’m going to take it for granted that if they screwed up they knew it,” he said. “Maybe some of them don’t. I don’t know. It is what it is. Look, ever since I came here in 1989, all people talk about is how knowledgeable Phillies fans are. So if I sugarcoat something they’re going to know I’m being a little you-know-what.
“But I’m not going to go out of my way to just bury someone. Hey, look, I’ve made every mistake you could make (as China jerseys of a player), on and off the field. But I can’t present that to Phillies fans and sugarcoat it. They see through that because they are knowledgeable. They understand.”