Before Bryce Harper plays in his first Phillies game or slaps his first hit or slams his first homer, he will have to step foot in Philadelphia for the first time since signing his $330 million deal. That will happen tonight. Harper and the Phillies will arrive in Philadelphia sometime this evening after playing their final Grapefruit League game in the afternoon against the Rays. Harper’s Phillies career will begin in three days.

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Bryce Harper directing teammate Rhys Hoskins to slide at home plate during a Grapefruit League game earlier this month against the Yankees.
YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Bryce Harper directing teammate Rhys Hoskins to slide at home plate during a Grapefruit League game earlier this month against the Yankees.

Braves to start two rookie pitchers against Phillies

You think the Phillies rotation has some question marks?

The Braves announced over the weekend that they’ll start rookie righthanders Bryse Wilson and Kyle Wright against the Phillies after Julio Teheran starts Thursday’s season opener. The defending division champs have vacancies in their rotation because Mike Foltynewicz (elbow) and Kevin Gausman (shoulder) were limited in spring training.

Saturday will be Wilson’s second major-league start. He will face Nick Pivetta. Wright will make his first big-league start on Sunday Night Baseball against Jake Arrieta. Wilson, 21, spent most of last season at double A, where he had a 3.97 ERA in 15 starts and 89 strikeouts in 77 innings. Wright, the higher-rated prospect, had a 3.70 ERA last season in 20 double-A starts, with 105 strikeouts in 109 innings. Both saw work in the majors late last season.

The Braves opted against starting lefthander Sean Newcomb because of the Phillies’ predominantly right-handed lineup. That could be good news for the $330 million left-handed hitter who will be in the middle of those right-handers. With an off-day Tuesday in Chicago, it would not be a surprise if Braves manager Brian Snitker relies heavily this weekend on his bullpen if his rookie pitchers experience even a hint of trouble.

The rundown

Bryce Harper should play catcher? That’s what Gabe Kapler wrote in 2013 when he was a columnist for the website of a Boston sports radio station. Scott Lauber caught up with Kapler to talk about his old column. “It’s fascinating to see that now,” Kapler said.

Rhys Hoskins was out of the Phillies lineup Sunday because of a sore shoulder, but the team expects him to be ready for opening day. If Hoskins were sidelined, Maikel Franco would play first base and Scott Kingery would play third.

The Phillies seemed to finalize their opening-day roster this weekend. Aaron Altherr captured the final bench spot over Sean Rodriguez, and Edubray Ramos will be in the bullpen instead of Victor Arano and Yacksel Rios.

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Important dates

Today: Final spring-training game vs. Rays, 1:05 p.m.

Tomorrow: Phillies work out at Citizens Bank Park, 3 p.m.

Thursday: Opening day against the Braves, 3:05 p.m.

Sunday: ESPN Sunday Night Baseball vs. the Braves, 7:05 p.m.

Opening day will be Thursday. Maybe the Phillies will get in a fight like they did in 2002 against the Marlins at the home opener.
Charles Fox/Staff file photo
Opening day will be Thursday. Maybe the Phillies will get in a fight like they did in 2002 against the Marlins at the home opener.

Stat of the day

It’s common knowledge by now that Bryce Harper hit more home runs at Citizens Bank Park during his time with the Nationals than he did at any other visiting ballpark. But what opposing team did Harper have the most homers against?

That would be the Atlanta Braves. Harper’s 25 homers against the Braves are one more than he hit against the Marlins or Phillies. So Harper’s first series will come at the ballpark where he has hit his most road home runs and against the team off which he has hit his most homers. Harper, against rookie pitching, could be in for a nice weekend.

From the mailbag

Send questions by email or on Twitter @matt_breen.

Question: My question concerns the status of Scott Kingery. Since he still has options, why don’t the Phillies send him to Lehigh Valley? He still looks lost at the plate and could use regular at bats, which he will not get with the Phillies having a more set lineup this year. Wouldn’t it be better for his long term development to play regularly in AAA rather than ride the bench and play occasionally in Philly? Or is this simply a case of not wanting to admit that the $24 million contract was a mistake? — Steve N, via email.

Answer: Thanks for the questions, Steve. Kingery will be in the majors to start the season, and Scott Lauber wrote an interesting piece this weekend about Kingery through the eyes of Aaron Judge, who works out with him each offseason.

There’s no doubt that Kingery struggled last season, but he still has more upside than whoever would replace him right now on the bench. Kingery hit so well in the minors that he deserves another look after what happened last season. He retooled his swing and has a new approach at the plate.

But if his problems continue, the Phillies won’t have the luxury of keeping him on the bench and they’ll have to option him to triple A. This is a big season for Kingery.