Maikel Franco and Scott Kingery May Battle to Be Phillies' Starting Third Baseman

Now this could be interesting.

An old-fashioned battle for a starting job in spring training.

Maybe.

Phillies manager Gabe Kapler did not shoot down the possibility of opening up the third-base job to a best-man-wins competition between Maikel Franco and Scott Kingery.

"Those are conversations that we're having right now," Kapler said Wednesday. "There is some competition at third base and that's a conversation that I'll have with Mikey and I'll have with Scott. So to answer your question directly, yes."

While a camp competition between Franco and Kingery is possible, there is, of course, a scenario where there will be no competition at all. If the Phillies were to sign Manny Machado - or even Mike Moustakas - he would be the team's third baseman. The Phils remain in pursuit of Machado and the game's other big free agent, rightfielder Bryce Harper.

If the Phillies were to sign Machado, or Moustakas as a fall back, they would likely look to deal Franco, who, despite leading the team in hitting at .270 last season has never exhibited the plate discipline that the front office likes.

Franco is in camp early and looking lean and strong after a winter in the gym. He greeted reporters Wednesday, but was not available for interviews.

Kingery is also in camp early and he, too, has been in the gym. He reported to camp at 192 pounds, noticeably bulked up from the end of last season when he weighed 179. Kingery said he wanted to add some strength after losing weight during the season last year.

"I've never been this heavy, but I still feel really in shape and powerful and explosive," he said.

Kingery was the Phillies' primary shortstop for four months last season, eventually handing off to Asdrubal Cabrera at the trade deadline. With Jean Segura now set at shortstop, Kingery projects to fill a super-utility role this season.

Unless he ends up being the third baseman.

"I've come in with the same expectations as last year - ready to play everywhere," Kingery said. "I don't know if there will be one position that I should focus on more than another. I'll be ready to play anywhere. The way I look at it is, if you're an infielder, it's still a ground ball."

Kingery struggled offensively in his first season in the big leagues. He hit just .226 with a .605 OPS and struck out 126 times in 452 at-bats. He said he would focus on making one big adjustment this season: Be more aggressive early in counts.

"Last season was a big learning process for me," he said. "I didn't swing at very many first pitches. My whole career I've been an aggressive hitter and I kind of got away from that last season and let some pitches go by that I could hit."

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