CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Bryce Harper, rolling in pain in the dirt near home plate, grabbed his right ankle on Friday afternoon and the Phillies had 330 million reasons to hold their breath.
The team’s new superstar left his fourth Grapefruit League game after being hit squarely on the ankle by a 96 mph fastball from Blue Jays rookie Trent Thornton. The Phillies, after a 3-2 win over Toronto, diagnosed Harper with a “right-foot contusion.” Harper limped off the field and left Spectrum Field for further testing.
“Right now, we don’t have major concerns,” manager Gabe Kapler said.
Friday was the start of a key stretch for Harper as he started in right field for what was scheduled to be three straight games to uptick his preparation for the season. Harper was already behind as he missed the first three weeks of spring training and did not face live pitching until March 6. But Harper and the Phillies were confident that they had a plan for him to be ready for opening day on March 28.
It is safe to expect that the key stretch this weekend will be altered. Even if Harper’s injury is just a contusion, it is unlikely that he will play Saturday against Houston. It is no longer guaranteed that he will play Sunday against the Yankees.
Harper has just five at-bats this spring. He didn’t face live pitching until a simulated game against Jerad Eickhoff. He went 0-for-2 on Friday and is hitless in his first five spring at-bats with three walks. Harper said earlier this week that he needs to find his timing at the plate. And the only way to do that is with more at-bats. A few missed games would be a setback.
“I think it’s a little premature to speculate on lost at-bats or anything like that,” Kapler said. “Again, not overly concerned right now.”
Harper grounded out in the first inning and struck out in the third. The third pitch from right-hander was supposed to be a low-and-in fastball. It moved far too low and inside.
The crowd, filling the same stadium where the Phillies introduced Harper two weeks earlier after signing him to a record $330 million deal, gasped when the ball whacked Harper’s ankle. Kapler and a team trainer rushed from the dugout nearly as soon as Harper dropped to the dirt. Harper hollered at the pitcher before walking to the dugout with a limp. For the Phillies, it was a scare. Now they wait to see if that’s all it was.
“Certainly extra scary given where we are in camp,” Kapler said. “We’re confident and we understand that we have a good club on the field, and we’re confident that Bryce is going to be all right.”