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Franco, Kingery vie for at-bats; Arrieta recovering

February 13, 2019

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- A slimmed down Maikel Franco and a bulked up Scott Kingery will compete for playing time at third base this season.Unless, of course, the Phillies sign Manny Machado.:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::• Spring Training:Schedule | Info | Tickets | GearBut until that happens

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- A slimmed down Maikel Franco and a bulked up Scott Kingery will compete for playing time at third base this season.
Unless, of course, the Phillies sign Manny Machado.
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But until that happens -- if it happens at all -- Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said Wednesday afternoon at Spectrum Field that Franco and Kingery will vie for plate appearances in 2019.
"Those are conversations that we're having right now," Kapler said. "There is some competition at third base, and that's a conversation that I'll have with Mikey and I'll have with Scott."
Franco said he showed up to Spring Training about 10 pounds lighter than last season. Kingery said he entered camp at around 193 pounds. He finished last season around 180 pounds.
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"I've never been this heavy, but I still feel really in shape and powerful and explosive," Kingery said.
Franco hit .270 with 22 home runs, 68 RBIs and posted a .780 OPS last season. Kingery hit .226 with nine homers, 38 RBIs and had a .605 OPS as a rookie. Kingery struggled last season as he played shortstop for the first time and adjusted to big league pitching as a rookie. But Kingery said he made changes to his swing and approach over the winter, which he believes will pay dividends this summer.
"I dug pretty deep into it," Kingery said.
Besides some physical adjustments, Kingery said he might be more aggressive early in the count. He swung at 116 of 486 (23.9 percent) first pitches last season, placing him among the more patient hitters in baseball early in a 0-0 count.
"My whole career I've been an aggressive hitter and kind of got away from it and let some pitches go by that I could hit," Kingery said.
Arrieta recovering from knee surgery
Phillies right-hander Jake Arrieta had left knee surgery a month ago following an offseason weight-training incident. Kapler called the surgery a "meniscus cleanup" and said there are no structural issues.
"Arrieta is right on track to start," Kapler said. "We may slow several guys down and we might not come out with our five-man rotation at the start, but it's not going to be due to injury. It's going to be our progression plan."
Since the Phillies have three off-days in the first eight days of the season, the club might not need Arrieta to pitch until April 9, which is the 10th game of the year. Arrieta is entering the second season of a three-year, $75 million contract. He went 10-11 with a 3.96 ERA in 31 starts last season.
Eickhoff suffers setback
Right-hander Jerad Eickhoff seems to have suffered a setback following carpal tunnel surgery in October.
"He had some symptoms in January," Kapler said. "As of now, he's not a candidate for surgery."
Eickhoff is scheduled to throw a bullpen session sometime next week.
"At that point, we'll check back in with him and see how he feels," Kapler said.
Eickhoff has made just three big league appearances since August 2017 because of nerve issues in his right fingers.
"He's had so much adversity over the course of the last 12-18 months," Kapler said. "We all feel for Jerad, because he's such a tough competitor and he puts so much effort in. He just wants to feel 100 percent. So he continues to strive toward that goal. He's a tough kid. He's well equipped to handle these situations."
Altherr slowed
Phillies outfielder Aaron Altherr finished last season with a right foot injury. After Altherr was immobilized for six weeks, the Phillies said they are going to "take it slow with him." Altherr is taking batting practice in the cage. Eventually, he will build to running and cutting.
"He might be a little behind in starting games, but we have no reason to think he won't be fully ready to go for the season," Kapler said.
Altherr enters camp competing for a job in the outfield. If he is not ready, it could open the door for non-roster invitees like Andrew Romine or Sean Rodríguez, or outfield prospect Dylan Cozens.

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.