Bryce Harper made his first appearance at Spectrum Field on Sunday, and Monday, the Phillies will hold their first full-squad workout under new manager Joe Girardi.
“It’s good to see all the position players get in,” Girardi said after the pitchers and catchers went through their fifth workout at the Carpenter Complex in Clearwater, Fla. “I always think camp gets a little livelier when the position players get in. For whatever reason, it’s a little bit louder.”
You can expect to hear the more consistent crack of bats at Monday’s workout, with hitters taking live batting practice against pitchers. The Phillies’ first Grapefruit League game is scheduled for Saturday against the Detroit Tigers at charming Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, Fla.
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Bryce Harper feels bad for Aaron Judge
Phillies right fielder Bryce Harper became the latest player to weigh in on Sign-Gate, the scandal that has tarnished the Houston Astros’ 2017 run to a World Series title. Like Los Angeles Dodgers slugger Cody Bellinger, Harper believes that New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge was robbed of the 2017 American League MVP award, which went to Astros second baseman Jose Altuve.
“You never want to see it,” Harper said of the Astros’ sign-stealing scheme. "It’s very tough to see that. But I think for me it’s more about the guys who come up for the first time and they know it and they get hit or shelled and they’re never coming to the big leagues again because a team had their signs and everything like that. It’s those guys that I feel bad for.
“Of course, the guys like [David] Robertson [now Harper’s teammate] getting shelled in Houston in 2017, that’s tough as well. ... And then guys like Aaron Judge going through 2017 and absolutely killing it that year and gets beat out [for MVP] by a great player in Altuve. It’s just guys like that who really miss out on things.”
Judge finished a distant second in the 2017 AL MVP voting, and based on his numbers alone, he probably should have received more first-place votes. Judge, as a rookie that year, hit .284 with a .422 on-base percentage and 1.049 slugging percentage. He hit 52 homers and drove in 114 runs. Altuve, who received 27 of 30 first-place votes to win the award, batted a league-leading .346 and had a .410 on-base percentage and a .957 OPS. He led the league with 204 hits, including 39 doubles and 24 home runs, and scored a career-high 112 runs.
But, as we now know, Altuve and a lot of other Astros were cheating that year and Harper is among the growing legion of big leaguers who think it was seriously wrong.
Bryce Harper’s wife, Kayla, wanted to know the same thing as a lot of Phillies fans before her husband left Las Vegas and headed to spring training: Did the team do enough to be a contender? Bryce Harper, in a conversation with reporters Sunday, explains why he thinks they did. The star right fielder also suggested the team should not part with top prospects Spencer Howard and Alec Bohm in an effort to get Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant.
Team president Andy MacPhail gave his annual spring-training address Friday and said that before the season is over he expects the Phillies to exceed the $208 million luxury tax. If they do, it will likely mean they are contending for a playoff spot.
Former Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. loves Philadelphia, and now he’s coming back to the baseball scene as a studio analyst with NBC Sports Philadelphia.
Phillies jack-of-all-trades Scott Kingery talked to our Matt Breen about John Altobelli, the Southern California junior college baseball coach who died in the helicopter crash that killed nine people, including NBA legend Kobe Bryant. Kingery played for Altobelli in the prestigious Cape Cod League in 2014.
You might have missed the trade the Phillies made over the weekend. The team acquired power-hitting outfielder Kyle Garlick for left-handed reliever Tyler Gilbert.
Larry Bowa addressed the Astros’ cheating scandal and the 25-year anniversary of replacement players in spring training during a lengthy interview I had with him last week. The legendary Phillies coach thinks the Astros’ hitters deserve some pitches to the ribs.
Phillies ace Aaron Nola is working with his fourth pitching coach in as many seasons, and he explained to our Scott Lauber why he prefers new pitching coach Bryan Price over the departed Chris Young.
Phillies fans are eager to see top pitching prospect Spencer Howard in the big leagues this season and so are the Phillies, but the team has him on an undisclosed innings limit and would like some of his innings to come in September when, the Phillies hope, they need his help in a playoff drive. Phillies general manager Matt Klentak explained their thinking, which could lead to an extended spring training for the team’s best young power arm.
In case you missed it, new Phillies pitcher Zack Wheeler got into a little insult-tossing tiff with his former team over the weekend, which resulted in a barb coming back his way from New York Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen. Wheeler put an end to the tiff Saturday.
Today: Phillies’ first full-squad workout at Carpenter Complex, 11 a.m.
Saturday: Grapefruit League opener vs. Detroit in Lakeland, Fla., 1:05 p.m.
Sunday: Spring home opener at Spectrum Field vs. Pittsburgh, 1:05 p.m.
March 26: Season opener vs. Miami at Marlins Park, 4:05 p.m.
April 2: Home opener vs. Milwaukee, 3:05 p.m.
Stat of the day
This is, of course, Joe Girardi’s first season as Phillies manager, but it will be his 12th as a big-league manager and only the Colorado Rockies’ Bud Black, who is going into his 13th season, has more experience among National League managers.
The only AL managers with more experience than Girardi are Houston’s Dusty Baker (22 seasons), Cleveland’s Terry Francona (19 seasons) and the Los Angeles Angels’ Joe Maddon (14 full seasons and two partial as an interim manager).
From the mailbag
Send questions by email or on Twitter @brookob.
Question: With all the kumbaya the Phillies seem to show past managers (Francona, Bowa, Manuel, Mackanin, etc.), we never see (or hear about) Ryne Sandberg. Is the fact he resigned, and did some bad-mouthing about “mean” players, turn him into a persona non grata at CBP? Thanks.
— Don K., via email
Answer: Thanks for reading Extra Innings and for the question, Don. It is unusual that the Phillies will have three guest instructors (Bowa, Charlie Manuel and Pete Mackanin) in camp who formerly managed the ballclub, but I think it’s great that they keep a connection to the past. Bowa, Manuel and Mackanin all have long histories with the Phillies and genuinely care about the results on the field.
Terry Francona, however, has never been back in spring training with the Phillies and probably never will be because he is not really affiliated with the team nearly as much as the other guys I mentioned. He also has been employed as a manager almost every season since being fired by the Phillies after the 2000 season.
As for Sandberg, it was his decision to leave, although he likely would have been fired at the end of the 2015 season because the Phillies were a rebuilding team undergoing a serious makeover. That said, Sandberg’s return as a guest instructor here is highly unlikely because he became a Hall of Fame player with the Chicago Cubs and that will always be his No. 1 team. Sandberg, in fact, has worked for the Cubs in a variety of roles since leaving the Phillies.