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June 14, 2017

Klentak continues to stand pat: 'This is a perfectly fine setup for right now'

Cesar Hernandez, the Phillies best offensive player over the last calendar year, will not be back in the Phillies lineup until after the All-Star break, and possibly, not until closer to the July 31 trade deadline.

Hernandez is on the disabled list with a left oblique strain. And so the Phillies will be without their leadoff man, a player who has posted the following over the last 365 days: .303/.383/.413, nine home runs, nine triples, 18 doubles, 20 stolen bases.

The Phillies, too, are in a particularly rough stretch (losers of 33 of their last 43 games) in part because of the failures of their offense. If you still include Cameron Rupp among regulars (he’s been splitting time evenly with Andrew Knapp over the last three weeks), then the Phillies have five everyday players with sub-.300 OBPs: Rupp, Odubel Herrera, Freddy Galvis, Maikel Franco, and the dreadful Michael Saunders.

Saunders has seen his playing time dwindle recently; he was expected to bat in the middle of the lineup. With Hernandez out and Saunders close to being reduced to a $9 million bench player, doesn’t general manager Matt Klentak almost have to find a source of offense from the outside of his current roster, not only for a spark but for production?

We’ve asked this question a few times recently, including earlier this week with the idea of promoting the best player in the Eastern League, Double-A Reading second baseman Scott Kingery, to the big leagues to seamlessly take Hernandez’s regular duties at second base.

Your thoughts, Matt Klentak?

“He’s doing great, he really is,” Klentak said of Kingery, who leads the Eastern League with 18 home runs and a .986 OPS. “He’s having a terrific year at Double-A, he’s doing all of the things we want him to do. I’d suspect in the pretty near future he’d move to Triple-A. But, it’s not time to bring him to the major leagues right now. And not really related to Cesar’s injury, it’s not the right thing for Scott Kingery’s development. But I don’t want to discount how impressive he’s been. He’s been really good. He’s taking steps forward in a lot of key areas and, for that reason, his move to Lehigh will come relatively soon.”

Is the caution because Double-A to the major leagues is a big jump? This was the follow-up for Klentak regarding Kingery, a 23-year-old who was the organization’s second-round pick out of the University of Arizona two years ago.

“It’s a big jump,” Klentak said. “But it’s happened in baseball history. We actually did is last year, albeit briefly with (Jorge) Alfaro and (Roman) Quinn at various times. So it’s not that we’re against doing it. But with him, he doesn’t even have a year of Double-A under his belt yet. He’s barely now two years removed from his draft class. We have, we’re going to do the right thing for Scott Kingery which in this case is also the right thing for the organization.”

So expect Kingery in Allentown some point soon, but not at Citizens Bank Park. Fair enough. But back to the Phillies having a couple of gaping holes in their lineup.

Klentak basically said the status quo from the last few days – with former long-time second baseman Howie Kendrick playing second base, others on the roster populating the outfield – is what manager Pete Mackanin will have at his disposal. For now.

“You look at that stat sheet, Daniel Nava has been one of our more productive outfielders this year,” Klentak said of Nava, a 34-year-old career reserve who is slashing .321/.432.487 in 78 at-bats this year. “I don’t know that (playing Nava is) a bad thing right now. We like Daniel Nava, he’s having a good year, he’s had a couple of good games in a row. That, for now, is the direction we’re likely going to head.

"As for a younger player coming up, you guys obviously know we have 40-man roster guys playing the outfield in Triple-A that we consider prospects. We know that we have alternatives if we need to go get somebody at Triple-A. That, too, may come at some point. But for right now, with the way the roster is going, with us carrying 13 pitchers, and with Daniel Nava playing well, this is a perfectly fine set-up for right now.”

So, to summarize: no Kingery, no Nick Williams.

No hope?

Follow Ryan on Twitter: @ryanlawrence21

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