Gabe Kapler said Bryce Harper was prepared to play on Wednesday, but the manager thought it was best for the right fielder to get a night off after starting the first 67 games.
The Phillies have a scheduled day off on Thursday, meaning Harper’s rest in Wednesday’s series finale with Arizona will give him consecutive days off. Starting Friday, the Phillies are scheduled to play 23 games in 24 days before the All-Star break. All 23 are against divisional opponents, including the first seven against the Braves and Nationals.
“Giving him back-to-back off days is what’s best for the Phillies and what was best for Bryce Harper,” Kapler said.
Harper entered Thursday with a seven-game hit streak and .928 OPS in his previous 60 plate appearances. His day off came when Harper seemed to be finding his groove at the plate after a rough few weeks, and the Diamondbacks starter was right-hander Merrill Kelly, a 30-year-old rookie with a 6-6 record and 4.12 ERA.
“I would like to play him every inning of every game,” Kapler said. “The same way I’d like to play J.T. [Realmuto] every inning of every game. I would love to be able to do that with Rhys [Hoskins] and all of our guys who I know give us our best chance to win. Sometimes, you balance that with finding the right spot to give a guy a little extra recovery. It’s always a balancing act.”
Kapler planned to use Harper off the bench on Wednesday if a situation arose.
Last month, Kapler said he could envision playing Harper in each of the team’s 162 games this season.
The bullpen’s injured list got shorter on Wednesday afternoon, and more relievers might be on their way soon.
Edubray Ramos was activated, leaving six relievers on the injured list. Pat Neshek might join the team on Saturday or Sunday in Atlanta, and the Phillies hope to have Adam Morgan begin a rehab assignment on Tuesday or Wednesday. David Robertson is making progress in Clearwater, Fla.