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Kingery shows versatility by playing third base

Phillies prospect, normally a second baseman, starts at hot corner vs. Twins
MLB.com @ToddZolecki

FT. MYERS, Fla. -- Gabe Kapler has made a point this spring to praise Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco for making changes to his swing. But those have been slow to show up in the box score, and it is noteworthy that Scott Kingery started at third base for the first time this spring in Sunday's 4-3 loss to the Twins at Hammond Stadium.

Franco opened the Grapefruit League schedule in a 3-for-30 funk before picking up four hits, including two home runs, in 10 at-bats over his last three games. Perhaps it is the beginning of something. Perhaps none of it matters. Regardless, expect to see Kingery more at third base before the end of Spring Training.

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FT. MYERS, Fla. -- Gabe Kapler has made a point this spring to praise Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco for making changes to his swing. But those have been slow to show up in the box score, and it is noteworthy that Scott Kingery started at third base for the first time this spring in Sunday's 4-3 loss to the Twins at Hammond Stadium.

Franco opened the Grapefruit League schedule in a 3-for-30 funk before picking up four hits, including two home runs, in 10 at-bats over his last three games. Perhaps it is the beginning of something. Perhaps none of it matters. Regardless, expect to see Kingery more at third base before the end of Spring Training.

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But should Phillies fans expect to see the club's No. 2 prospect at the hot corner in 2018?

"Based on his skill set, I think he could play legitimately everywhere on the diamond and be just fine," Kapler said. "It might take some reps to get him up to speed at various positions, but I don't think there's much that he can't do on a baseball field, athletically."

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Franco will be the Phillies' Opening Day third baseman, and he will have the opportunity to prove himself. Kingery will start the season in Triple-A, and his future remains at second base. But in case anybody has missed it, the Phillies have placed an incredible importance on defensive versatility. That's why Kingery has played second, third, shortstop and center field this spring.

It also is why it is not a stretch to see Kingery playing third base this season, particularly if Franco struggles or suffers an injury. Kingery went 2-for-4 against the Twins and is hitting .378 (14-for-37) with two doubles, three home runs, five RBIs and a 1.086 OPS.

Kapler said he talked with Kingery before the game about what he needs to be ready to play different positions during the season. Kingery said he needed more time in center field and third base.

"Those are things we're going to be optimizing for, going forward," Kapler said.

"It's a lot different than the right side of the field, which I'm used to," Kingery said. "I think it's going to take a little bit more time to get back in the swing of things over there. But I do need the reps over there to get some game experience and start to figure it out."

Kingery fielded two bunt plays differently Sunday. Leading off the second inning, Byron Buxton bunted a ball between the mound and the third-base line. Kingery fielded the ball cleanly, but threw low to first base, allowing Buxton to reach safely for a single.

Video: PHI@MIN: Buxton beats out a bunt single to third base

In the fifth inning, Kingery fielded Zack Granite's bunt up the third-base line with his throwing hand, this time throwing a strike for the out.

"The first one, I kind of stopped and fielded it like a second baseman," Kingery said. "Which, in that situation, you're probably not going to be able to do. The second time, I figured I might as well just keep running and barehand it and get rid of it. The first time I stopped and it kind of threw me off and I wasn't facing first base and I had to rush the throw. The second time was more fluid and I had my momentum going toward first base."

Video: PHI@MIN: Kingery charges to barehand Granite's bunt

Kingery learned something in the span of two innings. He hopes to learn more in the near future.

"I love that they're moving me around and giving me some opportunities at different positions," Kingery said. "It's great to be as versatile as possible. To do that, I'm going to have to get reps at every position."

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

Philadelphia Phillies, Scott Kingery