PHILADELPHIA -- After being activated from the injured list for Sunday's series finale against the Rockies, Scott Kingery made his first career start in center field.
Kingery went 1-for-3 with a walk in Sunday's 7-5 win, but was barely tested in the field. The only ball he fielded came on Charlie Blackmon's ninth-inning single up the middle. He is expected to get a planned day off in Monday’s series opener against the Cubs.
Philadelphia optioned 25-year-old outfielder Nick Williams to Triple-A Lehigh Valley to make room on the active roster. The Phillies want Williams, who is hitting .180 (11-for-61) with 18 strikeouts this season, to be in a position to get consistent at-bats.
"I think the important thing for [Williams] right now is to get a lot of reps," said assistant general manager Ned Rice. "I think it's just hard to get out of a slump if you're getting one at-bat a night. So we'll send him down there and let him get at-bats every day. There's still a good chance he'll play a role for us this year."
Kingery, sidelined since April 20 with a strained right hamstring, logged four innings in center field with Double-A Reading on Friday. He also played second, third and shortstop during his four-game rehab stint between Reading and Class A Lakewood. He went 2-for-14 (.143) with a sacrifice fly and two RBIs.
The Phillies, however, weren't worried about his bat. After all, Kingery was hitting .406 (13-for-32) with six extra-base hits before sustaining the hamstring injury.
Instead, they wanted Kingery to focus on getting comfortable in various positions, defensively. That included center field, where prior to Sunday, he had never started a game in his professional career.
Kingery had one big league appearance, covering just 1 2/3 innings, in center last season, while also patrolling center for 5 2/3 innings over two career Minor League appearances. The Phillies also used Kingery in center field five times this spring, including three starts. He converted all four of his chances in 23 innings of Grapefruit League action.
By optioning Williams to Triple-A, the Phillies are left without a true fourth outfielder. Roman Quinn is still on the injured list and Aaron Altherr was designated for assignment on May 4, leaving Kingery to join fellow infielders Sean Rodriguez and Phil Gosselin, as well as catcher Andrew Knapp as bench options.
"Obviously, it's a bit of an odd bench right now," Rice said. "We have three right-handed hitters and a catcher, but all three of those guys are pretty versatile. We feel comfortable with any of those guys playing just about any position. So I think we're covered everywhere."
"We expressed that we think he’s incredibly talented, and he was dealt a difficult hand having us bring in McCutchen and Bryce Harper -- two guys that are going to play every day," manager Gabe Kapler said. "We wanted him to go down and get those at-bats. It’s the only way for him to get his rhythm and his mojo back, is to go down and get some consistency."
Though Williams excelled as a pinch-hitter last season, going 10-for-28 (.357) with three homers, those opportunities were spread out between making 102 starts. He's gone just 3-for-24 (.125) as a pinch-hitter this season, while 30 of his 38 appearances have come off the bench. He entered as a reserve just 38 times all of last season.
"When he was pinch-hitting [last year], it would be a start, a start, then a day off the bench," Rice said. "[This year], it's been bench, bench, bench. Just getting back in that comfort level with the at-bats and reps, we're confident that he'll be able to come back up here, whether it's as a starter or fourth outfielder."