Man, the Phillies could sure use the 2019 version of Scott Kingery right about now. With Jean Segura on the IL for 10 to 12 weeks with a fractured finger that required surgery and a resurgent Nick Maton also landing on the IL with a shoulder sprain suffered while making a diving defensive play, the Kingery of old would be a definite fit. 

Before this week, it seemed like it may be a while before we saw “Scotty Jetpax” back in the majors. The Phillies removed him from their 40-man roster exactly a year ago this week after he was activated from a concussion. Prior to that, bad stats plagued the former top prospect who is still owed $14 million from the Phillies thanks to an ill-advised deal that they offered him prior to him playing in even just one major league game. 

After last season’s concussion came another injury, this time, a torn labrum, resulting in shoulder surgery. He returned to the field this season to get some tune-ups at the Phillies minor league complex in Clearwater, Florida and then rejoined Lehigh Valley about three weeks ago. It has been a long road back. 

“It’s good enough to play in games, but we are still strengthening it up to be able to play at other positions,” said Kingery recently about his repaired shoulder. “The plan is to play second base with the shorter throw and give me time to adjust and really get the arm strength to where I want.” 

Since returning to the diamond, Kingery has played in 16 games with designated hitter being the only spot other than second base where he has spent time in the lineup. Fans hoping for a quick fix to Kingery’s struggles with the bat prior to the injury will be disappointed, because it simply is not going to happen. In fact, he is even further behind because he went for an extended stretch of time without playing any baseball, which has completely erased any of the timing that he had at the plate. 

“It’s been a long road, baby steps, every day, but it’s feeling good, and I am glad about where it’s at right now,” Kingery reported during the last IronPigs homestand. “This was the first time I was away from baseball for an extended amount of time. Honestly, I was nervous for my first game because of being away from baseball for 10 or 11 months. The timing and hitting and everything and getting the shoulder strength, we will have to see how long it takes for everything to come back, but we’ll figure it out.” 

In his first 16 games with Lehigh Valley, Kingery was batting just .185 with a .297 on-base percentage. His only home run came on May 25th, a full 20 months since his last home run, which came as a member of the Phillies back on September 22, 2020, against the Washington Nationals. 

Mentally, dealing with the offensive struggles and then the shoulder injury, Kingery has handled it well, but admits he was anxious to get back to playing. 

“It’s like going 0-for-4 and not being in the lineup the next day and you just want the chance to get back out there,” said Kingery. “I was just excited to get back to doing baseball activities and doing what I have always done my whole life. It took a while, but I’m glad to be back out there.” 

If the plan is for Kingery to take up space on the bench with the Phillies, it is not going to do him nor the team any good. What Kingery needs most is playing time to get his swing and timing back. You can’t do that sitting on the bench or taking BP. Perhaps a better choice for that role would have been infielder Yairo Munoz, who has had playing time in the majors and is playing well, hitting .317/.347/.407 with the IronPigs this season.

BEHIND THE MASK… Look for a line of traffic behind the plate in the Phillies organization. J.T. Realmuto is of course, the big name in the majors with Garrett Stubbs putting up some nice numbers as his backup. Here is where it gets fun. Lehigh Valley has Donny Sands (2-16-.333 in 25 games) on the IL and until Wednesday’s trade, Austin Wynns (3-20-.365 in 33 games) had taken over as the go-to catcher. Edgar Cabral (1-5-.178) and Herbert Iser (1-for-5 in 2 games) are technically the two catchers still on the Lehigh Valley roster, however, Rafael Marchan (hamstring injury) is on a rehab assignment from the Phillies with Lehigh Valley. It is likely that unless the Phillies carry three catchers, which would not be out of the question, Marchan will be activated and optioned to the ‘Pigs. Plus, Logan O’Hoppe (12-34-.303 in 45 games) is one of the hottest prospects in baseball at Double-A Reading, which leads you to wonder how much longer they will want to have him playing at Double-A. 

BULLPEN HELP… Have you noticed that younger players are stepping up well under new manager Rob Thomson with the Phillies? Former IronPigs Maton, Bryson Stott, Mickey Moniak, and Cristopher Sanchez have all helped of late. With the focus being on strengthening the bullpen, can Francisco Morales be far behind? The 22-year-old righty made his MLB debut last month with the Phillies and had one strong outing and one shaky outing where he did at least earn the save. After that, he was optioned back to the IronPigs. With Lehigh Valley this season, he is 1-1 with a 1.23 ERA and a save in six games, covering 7 1/3 innings. Pundits around baseball are wondering what the Phillies are waiting for.