PHILADELPHIA — Scott Kingery is getting healthier.
Cesar Hernandez is getting better.
That’s a combination the Philadelphia Phillies need if they are to continue their early-season success. Philadelphia (24-17) began Wednesday with a 3.5 game lead over the second-place Atlanta Braves (21-21) and New York Mets (20-20) in the National League East.
Hernandez began Wednesday with a .304 batting average and a .371 on-base percentage. He was batting .364 with two home runs in the last seven days.
The second baseman’s statistics are even more impressive, considering his slow start. Hernandez batted .265 (26 for 98) in April.
Before the Phillies hosted the Milwaukee Brewers on Wednesday night, Phillies manager Gabe Kapler lauded the work Hernandez put in to improve.
Kapler also said Hernandez has improved his flexibility and arm strength. The manager said Hernandez has found a “sweet spot” when it comes to his physical condition.
“I think it’s noticeable how his body has changed since the start of spring training,” Kapler said.
“When he got to spring training, he was a little bit big and musculature. At the end of last season, he was pretty light and really, really lean. There’s this middle ground, and he’s in that middle ground right now. He’s at the right playing weight and the right physical condition.”
Hernandez’s slow start led to speculation Kingery could replace him as a starter.
But Kingery hasn’t played since he injured his hamstring April 19. He went to the injured list with a .406 average (13 for 32), two home runs and six RBIs.
Kingery began his comeback by playing a rehabilitation game with the Lakewood BlueClaws on Tuesday.
“The first time he ran down to first base, he was kind of ginger with it because he hasn’t experienced a soft-tissue injury in the past,” Kapler said. “But then he was able to make the adjustment, accelerate through and trust his body.”
Kingery will continue his rehab assignment with the Reading Fightin Phils on Thursday and Friday. The schedule calls for Kingery to play nine innings at second base Thursday, and third and center field Friday.
“We will read and react from there,” Kapler said. “As soon as we can, we want him to get exposed to the outfield and different positions on the infield, so we can utilize him where it’s best for him and the Phillies.”
And what seems best for the Phillies is Hernandez starting at second, and Kingery being the super-utility player.
“Kingery will be used and viewed in a similar fashion as he has been in the past with the Phillies,” Kapler said, “as an option to start at any position — third, short, second, center, left, right.”