Phillies star Bryce Harper back in swing with first two spring-training home runs
Harper was hitless in his first nine Grapefruit League at-bats.
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Last Sunday, Bryce Harper said his goal was “definitely to get a couple knocks” before the Phillies head home to open the season.
Check. And check.
Harper slammed his first and second spring-training home runs Thursday, in a 13-6 romp over the Blue Jays. Playing in his seventh Grapefruit League game since signing a 13-year, $330 million contract on March 2, the Phillies new superstar went deep on the first and last pitches he saw from Toronto right-hander Sam Gaviglio and lefty Thomas Pannone, respectively.
"I feel good right now. Swing feels good. Timing is coming along," Harper said. "Just want to take the next couple days and really solidify that timing and get to it."
Harper was hitless through his first nine major-league spring-training at-bats. He picked up his first hit, a single to center field, in the fourth inning Wednesday against the Tigers and has three hits and two walks in his last seven plate appearances.
The first homer, a two-run shot in the first inning, was a line drive that appeared to hit bunting behind a sign in right field that marks the Phillies’ World Series championships in 1980 and 2008. The second, a solo shot in the sixth, cleared everything in right field.
"I thought the first one was a rocket and had incredible carry, and the second one I thought was squared up even better," manager Gabe Kapler said. “He showed why he's one of the best offensive players in baseball."
Kapler has Harper penciled in as the No. 3 hitter on opening day next Thursday against the Braves at Citizens Bank Park. Harper, who won’t play Friday night against the Yankees in Tampa, is scheduled to be in the lineup for the final three spring-training games before the Phillies break camp Monday.
Andrew McCutchen, J.T. Realmuto, Andrew Knapp, and Gift Ngoepe also homered.
Cameo for Bohm
About that tall third baseman with No. 95 and no surname on the back of his jersey who entered the game in the sixth inning: It was Alec Bohm, the Phillies’ first-round pick in June.
Bohm was summoned from minor-league camp to make a cameo in a Grapefruit League game. He was called out on strikes in his only at-bat, but Kapler said the experience served the 22-year-old well.
"First appearance in a major-league game, first time he ever caught a popup in these kind of conditions with everybody watching, got to see his first at-bat," Kapler said. "It was an exciting moment for the organization, for sure."
Right-hander Drew Anderson, lefty reliever James Pazos, and outfielder Dylan Cozens were optioned to triple-A, while top outfield prospect Adam Haseley was assigned to minor-league camp. Anderson had a particularly strong spring after replacing his slider with a cutter. He could be the first pitcher recalled when the Phillies need a starter. … Infielders Ngoepe . Phil Gosselin, and Matt McBride and outfielders Shane Robinson and Lane Adams were told that they will head to triple-A once camp breaks. ... The Phillies granted unconditional releases to catcher Drew Butera and infielder Austin Romine, both of whom had opt-out clauses in their minor-league contracts if they weren’t added to the 40-man roster. Left- handers Edward Paredes and Jeremy Bleich and infielders Trevor Plouffe and Gregorio Petit also were released. ... Right-hander Jerad Eickhoff is scheduled to start Friday night. ... Opening-day starter Aaron Nola will get his final tune-up in a minor-league game at the Carpenter Complex.