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Phillies option Scott Kingery and JoJo Romero to AAA

Kingery had been a candidate to win the CF job this spring.

Detroit Tigers v Philadelphia Phillies Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

Scott Kingery’s attempt to win the starting center field job is over, and now he’s even lost his spot on the big league roster.

The Phillies announced the team was optioning the soon-to-be 27-year-old to AAA Lehigh Valley ahead of the team’s penultimate spring training game on Sunday against the Yankees.

Kingery’s demotion comes on the heels of a lackluster spring in which he hit a paltry .159 (7-for-44) with three doubles, one home run and a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 19-to-4. He had been battling Roman Quinn, Adam Haseley and Odubel Herrera for the team’s center field job but fell far behind the pack as his spring struggles continued.

Kingery is in the fourth year of a six-year, $24 million deal he signed back in the spring of 2018 by former general manager Matt Klentak before he had ever played a single big league game. His demotion could open a spot on the roster for Ronald Torreyes, a utility infielder who has also struggled offensively this spring (.238/.304/.286 in 42 at-bats), but plays all three infield positions and is a veteran player who gives the Phils defensive flexibility. Brad Miller’s return to the lineup on Sunday also meant he will likely be ready for Opening Day, allowing the team to demote Kingery in the hopes regular AAA at-bats (once their season begins in a few weeks) will help him recover the stroke that made him one of the game’s top prospects three years ago.

Romero’s demotion is a bit more surprising and appears to have cemented the team’s eight-man bullpen for the start of the season. Manager Joe Girardi is prioritizing long men, which means David Hale and Vince Velasquez are likely to join Archie Bradley, Jose Alvarado, Hector Neris, Brandon Kintzler and Connor Brogdon in the bullpen. Romero apparently lost out on the final spot in the ‘pen to Sam Coonrod, who was acquired in a trade with the San Francisco Giants this off-season. Both were already on the team’s 40-man roster, however, Coonrod had no options left, while Romero did.

This means the Phils will enter the season with just one left-handed reliever out of the ‘pen, in Alvarado. Veteran non-roster invitee Tony Watson was given his release last week, and other internal options had been sent to the minors over the previous weeks. However, a number of the Phillies’ right-handed relievers have done well against left-handed hitters in their careers.

The Romero demotion is a clear indication Girardi feels having two long men in Hale and Velasquez is more important than a second left-hander in the bullpen, and shows his level of concern over how much he’s going to be able to get out of his starting pitchers this year. Of course, it’s likely Romero will be on the team at some point this season, and probably sooner rather than later, but it’s an interesting roster decision to say the least.