When Will Nick Williams Get a Start? Could We See Andrew McCutchen in Center Field?

NEW YORK - Even with Odubel Herrera on the injured list, Nick Williams still hasn't found his way into the Phillies' starting lineup.

The Phillies do not consider Williams a viable option in center field, so with Herrera out, they've used Roman Quinn and Aaron Altherr in center. Quinn started all four games at Coors Field and Altherr was in the Phils' starting lineup Monday night in New York.

With Bryce Harper and Andrew McCutchen entrenched in the corner outfield and producing, the one option the Phillies have to get Williams a start is to move McCutchen to center field for a game or two.

It sounds like an alignment we could see soon.

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"It's something I have considered quite a bit," manager Gabe Kapler said Monday afternoon. "I can tell you I really think Cutch has done a nice job in left field. Part of the reason for me holding off on a decision like that has been his comfort level there, Bryce's comfort level in right field.

"We had a situation (Sunday) where we had planned on double-switching Nick into the game for Roman. Nick would move to left and Cutch would move to center. So we have confidence he can go out there and get the job done. We also have several centerfielders who need reps. 

"Roman, despite the fact that he's not off to his best start - he looks a little bit like he's pressing at the plate early on. I think, when we can, we want him out in center field. 

"Has there been consideration? The answer is yes. We'll probably consider it for tomorrow as well."

The Phillies drew lefty Steven Matz on Monday night and will face lefties Wednesday (Jason Vargas) and Thursday (Caleb Smith) as well. In between is a game Tuesday night against right-hander Zack Wheeler - if weather doesn't change the schedule. That would seem to be the most logical time to get Williams his first start of the season. Williams has appeared in 18 of the Phillies' first 20 games but has seen just eight innings total in the field.

McCutchen's comfort level in center field is worth weighing as well. Once upon a time, he was a Gold Glove centerfielder with the Pirates and was hesitant to cede his position to Starling Marte in 2017, before Marte was suspended for PEDs.

Since then, McCutchen has settled into the corner outfield and has been very good defensively. He did not play an inning of center field last season with the Giants or Yankees and hasn't as a Phillie either.

"I broached the topic with him before spring training began," Kapler said. "And I think he'd be perfectly comfortable with us putting him in center field. I think we're balancing a couple of things here. The first one is our optimal lineup construction or our best lineup construction. 

"The second is, what's our best defensive construction and who's on the mound? For example, today might have been a pretty good day to get McCutchen in center field. There's also a lefty on the mound for the Mets, so this might be the right time for Altherr.

"I have had the conversation with Cutch. I'm not worried about if and when we decide to give him a start in center that he'll be fine there."

This week feels like the right time to try it out, with Herrera sidelined by a hamstring injury and Williams antsy to finally get three or four at-bats in a game.

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