Phillies look to limit strikeouts as center field battle heats up

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Jim Salisbury
·4 min read
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Phillies are looking to limit K's and moving in the right direction originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

The battle for the Phillies' starting center field job takes center stage Friday in Sarasota, Florida.

All three contestants are in the starting lineup against the Baltimore Orioles.

In fact, they're hitting 1-2-3 in the lineup.

Obviously, only one guy can play center field. Scott Kingery gets that assignment. Roman Quinn gets the start in right field and Odubel Herrera is the designated hitter.

An outside candidate, Travis Jankowski, gets the start in left field. The lefty-swinging Jankowski has significant big-league time with San Diego, but he's in camp as a non-roster player with a team that is going to be scuffling for 40-man roster spots in a couple of weeks. The odds of him making the club out of camp are steep, but he could end up providing valuable Triple A depth and get to the majors at some point in the season with the Phillies.

Mickey Moniak is having a strong camp and he, too, could get a shot in Philadelphia before the season is over, but, at the moment, the general consensus is he needs to go to Triple A and get regular at-bats.

So, it's basically a three-horse race with 17 games to go in camp.

The Phillies probably don't have the roster flexibility to open the season with all three guys so someone must step forward and seize the opportunity with his play. Herrera is not on the 40-man roster and can be sent to the minors. Quinn is out of minor-league options. Kingery has options.

Heading into Friday's game, Herrera might have the upper hand in the competition. He has played well defensively in center and right and has had good at-bats while generating hard contact. He is 4 for 14 with a homer, a stolen base, no walks and a .286 on-base percentage.

Quinn is 5 for 12 with a double, a stolen base, a walk, five strikeouts and a .462 on-base percentage.

Kingery is 3 for 16 with a double, a homer, a walk, seven strikeouts and a .235 on-base percentage.

The strikeouts are a concern with Kingery, especially because the team has asked him to make adjustments to his swing this spring, shorten it, take some of the lift out of it and try to hit more gap-to-gap line drives. In three big-league seasons, he has a strikeout rate of 27.8 percent and a walk rate of just 6.1 percent.

Kingery had a solid day Thursday. In the third inning, he jumped a first-pitch, 96-mph fastball from Gerrit Cole and powered it, on a line, to the wall for a double. Two innings later, he grounded out back to the mound on an 0-1 curveball from Jonathan Loaisiga.

Manager Joe Girardi was happy with Kingery's at-bats.

"I think he needed it for his psyche," Girardi said. "And the fact that, I know he grounded out to the pitcher, but he made contact. Scotty has speed. We want contact. We want you through the middle of the field. I thought he really had a good day."

Girardi doesn't just want more contact from Kingery. He wants it from everybody.

"Strikeouts, as an organization, we have a problem with them," Girardi said. "We don't like them. And I'm not saying we always strike out, I'm saying we don't like them, and I think it's important that you have different approaches on different counts. It's something that we talk about a lot."

Over the last three seasons, the Phils have ranked 28th (24.8 percent), 15th (23.2 percent) and 7th (21.6 percent) in strikeout rate. They are moving in the right direction.

"I felt we were better last year and we want to even get better than that this year," Girardi said. 

Here is Friday's lineup:

1. Roman Quinn RF

2. Scott Kingery CF

3. Odubel Herrera DH

4. Alec Bohm 1B

5. C.J. Chatham SS

6. Travis Jankowski LF

7. Nick Maton 3B

8. Jeff Mathis C

9. Ronald Torreyes 2B

Zack Wheeler P

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