Harper acrobatic in first career start at 1B

CLEVELAND — The brand new man at first base noticed the pop fly hovering into foul territory. He confidently tracked it as he ranged towards the photographer’s pit close to the customer’s dugout, then jumped on the wall to snare the ball as he fell into the pit. He raised his glove to indicate first-base umpire Gabe Morales the ball.

Out recorded, experiment rewarded. In solely his third inning as a primary baseman, Bryce Harper had simply proved himself a fairly darn good one.

The Phillies’ comeback bid might need come up brief in a 6-5 loss to the Guardians within the opener of an Interleague set Friday evening at Progressive Area. However let the report present they did notch a victory of a special kind. A longstanding designated hitter logjam is seemingly solved if Harper can acquit himself nicely at a brand new place, and that’s what he did early and infrequently on this one.

“I really feel very snug,” Harper mentioned. “We’ve been working for a pair months now, and I really feel regular going on the market enjoying and slowing it down as finest as potential and simply enjoying good baseball.”

Harper’s acrobatic catch, ending with a tough crash to the concrete, was each thrilling and chilling for the Phils, who definitely can’t afford to see their star get harm. There didn’t look like any concern about Harper’s situation afterward.

“I believed there was extra netting there than there was,” Harper mentioned.

This wasn’t simply Harper’s first massive league look at first base for multiple batter. It was his first look within the discipline since April 16, 2022. Ordinarily a proper fielder, Harper had been restricted to DH duties ever since he tore his ulnar collateral ligament in his proper elbow.

The common DH saved the Phillies’ 2022 NL pennant season, permitting Harper to contribute offensively regardless of the elbow dilemma, and it additionally allowed Harper to return again faster than anticipated from offseason Tommy John surgical procedure.

However Kyle Schwarber, who began at DH on Friday, was not signed to play almost as a lot outfield as he has the final two seasons, and Harper had volunteered to be taught first base within the wake of Rhys Hoskins struggling a season-ending knee damage throughout Spring Coaching.

It is uncommon, although not unprecedented, for a participant of Harper’s caliber to make a mid-career place swap. The likes of Robin Yount (from shortstop to middle discipline) and Craig Biggio (catcher to second base to the outfield and again to second) did it within the midst of their Corridor of Fame careers.

“He’s a group man,” Hoskins mentioned. “It’s a necessity for the group, so he’s simply attempting to do what he can to place the group in the perfect place to win. You don’t usually see guys do that midway by way of their profession, not to mention a future Corridor of Famer.”

Harper was put to the check at first instantly. Within the backside of the primary, Guardians leadoff man Steven Kwan despatched a bouncer Harper’s means, and Harper simply snared it and flipped it to pitcher Ranger Suárez for the out.

“They are saying the ball will all the time discover you first play of the sport,” supervisor Rob Thomson mentioned. “He didn’t look misplaced. He was form of engaged with every part that was happening, and he knew the place to be, for essentially the most half.”

Thomson mentioned the plan is to make use of Harper at first base roughly each different recreation, relying on the way it goes and the way his physique responds.

Getting Harper again within the discipline — albeit a special discipline place — offers the Phillies wanted flexibility of their lineup.

“If Bryce can transfer to first base, it permits us to unlock the DH spot and put Kyle there just a little bit extra,” Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski mentioned lately, “after which, we’ve got the power to determine what we need to do in left discipline — or the outfield, interval.”

That has repercussions on the Commerce Deadline, the place the Phillies might be within the combine for an choice just like the Cubs’ Cody Bellinger.

So Harper, who went 1-for-4 with a stroll in his debut as a primary baseman and is now slashing .294/.388/.412 on the season, can assist the Phillies with extra than simply his bat, which oddly has produced only one homer within the final 43 video games. The brand new man simply may stick.

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Printed : 2023-07-22 03:18:00

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