CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Game on, Bryce Harper.
After getting a dozen plate appearances against four minor-league pitchers on a back field Thursday at the Carpenter Complex — and hitting another home run in the process — the Phillies’ new superstar was cleared for game action. Harper will get a break from live at-bats Friday and will be the designated hitter Saturday against the Blue Jays in Clearwater and get one or two at-bats, according to manager Gabe Kapler.
“Just wanted to make sure that he got through those at-bats with good timing and good health. Saw that he did,” Kapler said. “He also ran the bases and that went very well, so we’re good to go for Saturday at this point.”
The Phillies have 18 spring-training games left before opening the season at home March 28 against the Braves. Harper has averaged 50 spring-training at-bats per season since 2013. If he plays in, say, 10 Grapefruit League games, he could conservatively get 30-40 at-bats.
“If I’m at 40-45, that’s huge for me,” Harper said earlier in the week. “If I’m under that, it’s OK. But it’s trying to see pitches, trying to see as many at-bats as I can. Being able to go to the minor-league side has helped me the past couple years, just getting a little more at-bats, seeing live arms. Guys throw pretty hard over there.”
One week after agreeing terms on his record-setting 13-year, $330 million contract, Harper took part in his second simulated game in as many days. He hit an opposite-field homer in his first at-bat against single A right-hander Gustavo Armas and put the ball in play six times, breaking his bat once.
Scott Kingery made his first start of the spring in center field in the Phillies’ 6-0 split-squad loss to the Yankees at Spectrum Field, a notable detail considering both Odubel Herrera (hamstring, flu) and Roman Quinn (oblique) have been sidelined.
At this point, Kapler said the Phillies are “not concerned” about Herrera starting the season on the disabled list. He characterized Quinn as “ahead of his original schedule,” but also said the Phillies remain in wait-and-see mode on whether he will be ready for the opener.
If neither Herrera nor Quinn are ready, Kingery figures to be an option to start in center field. The utilityman also will get at-bats at third base, although Maikel Franco likely has the inside track on the everyday job.
Another center-field alternative: Aaron Altherr, who can’t be sent to the minors without clearing waivers. Dylan Cozens, a corner outfielder who is having a strong spring, got a start in center field earlier in the week.