The good vibrations generated by the signing of Bryce Harper are carrying over to the Grapefruit League games even though the $330 million outfielder will not make his spring-training debut until Saturday’s home game against Toronto. With a 2-1 win over the St. Louis Cardinals on Tuesday at Spectrum Field, the Phillies’ exhibition record improved to 7-2-2 overall and 4-0-2 since the news of Harper’s signing broke late last week.
The best news so far for the Phillies this spring has been the work of the starting pitchers, particularly the top two guys in the rotation. Jake Arrieta provided the Phillies with three perfect innings and four strikeouts in his Grapefruit League debut Sunday against Minnesota, and ace Aaron Nola delivered three scoreless innings and allowed just one baserunner Tuesday against St. Louis. Nick Pivetta came on in relief of Nola and did not allow a run in 2⅓ innings, but he did walk three batters. So far this spring, the Phillies’ projected rotation has allowed just one run on four hits in 11⅓ innings.
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We knew that at some point the dream of Bryce Harper and Mike Trout playing together in the Phillies outfield would become the hot topic in Philadelphia. We just did not think it would start so soon. You can thank Harper for accelerating the process by making a thinly veiled reference during his introductory news conference Saturday, but the subject continued to have legs Tuesday, thanks again to Harper.
Our Scott Lauber wrote Monday about the possibility of the two men playing together, and then 94 WIP’s Ike Reese and John Marks threw some fuel on the fire by asking Harper about it during their afternoon show Tuesday.
“If you don’t think I’m going to be calling Mike Trout in 2020 to have him come to Philly,” Harper said, "you are crazy.”
Lauber also predicted that Harper will be hearing from Major League Baseball about his desire to bring Trout to Philadelphia.
You can hear the entire WIP interview here, and Harper makes it clear that his 13-year commitment to the Phillies is going to give him the ability to recruit a lot of free agents.
“Bryce is a true team player,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “He’s not just thinking about what he can bring to the team. He’s also thinking about all of his teammates all of the time. Additionally, he’s thinking about every possible way that we can improve. I don’t blame him for having that mentality.”
Speaking of Harper’s commitment to his new and potential future teammates, the Phillies’ $330 million man spent Tuesday mentoring fellow outfielder Mickey Moniak. The two men, of course, have the shared distinction of being the first overall pick in the draft, and Moniak was thrilled, to say the least, about the advice he received from Harper as detailed by our Matt Breen.
Just to remind you all that we are still covering the Phillies and not just Harper, Breen offered three unrelated Harper things you should know with a little more than three weeks left before the March 28 season opener against the Atlanta Braves.
Columnist David Murphy arrived in Clearwater on Tuesday, and his leadoff column focused on the starting rotation, the biggest question mark facing the team now that Harper is in the fold. Only Nick Pivetta, Vince Velasquez and Zach Eflin can answer that question.
Columnist Marcus Hayes thought the Phillies let the better player get away when the San Diego Padres signed shortstop Manny Machado to a 10-year deal worth $300 million, but he is willing to concede that Harper is bringing sexy back to Philadelphia baseball.
J.T. Realmuto is Harper’s favorite player, but Lauber got the Phillies’ new catcher to acknowledge that he sometimes gave his new teammate some playful jabs when the two were division rivals with the Miami Marlins and Washington Nationals.
Our Rob Tornoe got a hold of Neil Greenberg from the Washington Post and got an explanation about why the writer thought Harper would have been a bargain at $500 million after the 2017 season but did not think the Phillies’ new outfielder was worth $330 million over 13 years in this year’s free-agent market. WAR (wins above replacement) was at the root of Greenberg’s reasoning.
Check out the latest episode of Extra Innings, our new Phillies podcast, for even more analysis. Listen here.
Today: Vince Velasquez makes his Grapefruit League debut vs. Toronto in Dunedin, Fla., 1:07 p.m.
Saturday: Bryce Harper scheduled to be the DH vs. Toronto at Spectrum Field, 1:05 p.m.
March 25: Phillies play final spring training game vs. Tampa Bay, 1:05 p.m.
March 28: Season opener at Citizens Bank Park vs. Atlanta, 3:05 p.m.
April 2: Harper returns to Nationals Park for 7:05 game vs. Washington.
The Phillies’ projected five starters to open the season were held out of the team’s first eight Grapefruit League games and tuned up instead by pitching live batting practice sessions at the team’s Carpenter Complex training facility.
Six projected minor-league starters (Cole Irvin, Enyel De Los Santos, Drew Anderson, JoJo Romero, Ranger Suarez, and Adonis Medina) pitched in those first eight games. Those six combined for a 4.15 ERA, allowing 15 hits, six walks and 10 earned runs in 21 2/3 innings. They also combined for 20 strikeouts.
Given the fragile state of pitchers, more than one of the above is likely to be part of the Phillies’ rotation at some point this season. Anderson might be emerging as the first to get a call to the big leagues after surrendering just one run on three hits in 5 2/3 innings during his two spring-training outings. He struck out five in three innings against Pittsburgh last week.
Send questions by email or on Twitter @brookob.
Answer: Excellent question Michael. If — and it’s a big if — everybody is healthy, I think the bench will be Nick Williams, Roman Quinn, Scott Kingery, and Andrew Knapp. Quinn’s injury status is in question, and it’s possible that Nick Williams ends up being traded. The guy who I think could take a big leap forward as a player this year is Dylan Cozens.