DENVER — It didn’t sneak up on Bryce Harper that he was about to reach 10 years of major league service time. It’s just that he hadn’t given it much thought until two weeks ago, when he was talking to one of the Oakland A’s during the Phillies’ season-opening series.
“I’m not going to name names,” Harper said, laughing as he spoke, “but the guy was like, ‘Man, I grew up watching you play. It’s so surreal. I can’t believe you’re standing here.’ And I was like, ‘Wow, that’s crazy.’ But it’s cool at the same time.”
Harper arrived at the 10-year service milestone here Tuesday. He won’t mark the decade-long anniversary of his major league debut until April 28, but service time is based on each day in a 187-day season that a player spends on the active roster or injured list.
» READ MORE: Why Bryce Harper is the perfect Philadelphia athlete
Players who accrue at least three years of service time are eligible for salary arbitration. Six years of service brings about free agency. Fewer than 10% of players in history have gotten to 10 years, according to the Major League Baseball Players Association.
To most observers, 10 years in the majors always seemed like a fait accompli for Harper, a teenage prodigy who was called up at age 19 after being drafted first overall by the Washington Nationals. But that doesn’t mean that he took the achievement for granted.
“I sit back and think about it, and it’s like, anything could’ve happened,” Harper said. “You never know. To be at 10 years, I kind of reflect back, and I’m just so thankful for the support of my teammates and my family, the support of my wife being there.”
Harper spent most of the day in the Phillies’ training room at Coors Field, receiving treatment on an irritated right elbow that forced him to be the designated hitter for a third consecutive game. But there also was time for reflection, even for a superstar who prefers to look ahead rather than reminisce.
For one thing, Harper was dating his wife, Kayla, when he played his first major league game at Dodger Stadium. Over the years, they got engaged, then married, then had two children. Harper’s outlook on just about everything is different now than it was then.
Harper also recalled learning from so many veteran teammates with the Nationals. He cited Rick Ankiel, Xavier Nady, Chad Tracy, Mark DeRosa, and, of course, former Phillies outfielder Jayson Werth, who Harper previously has described as a big brother.
“J-Dub, being the smart [guy] that he is, said, ‘You’re going to be a really good player when you’re 30,’” Harper said, laughing. “I’m getting really close to that.”
And that’s the crazy part.
Harper has been among baseball’s most recognizable stars for a decade. Among active Phillies players, only reliever Brad Hand has been in the majors longer than Harper. But Harper doesn’t turn 30 for another six months, and he’s in only the fourth year of a 13-year, $330 million contract that runs through 2031.
“It’s absolutely amazing,” Phillies manager Joe Girardi said. “I knew of him just because of the exposure that he had received, rightfully so. I think it was a lot of pressure for a kid, but I think he’s handled it great. He’s a special talent, right?”
If Harper could go back in time, knowing what he has learned in the last 10 years, and advise his teenage self, what might he say?
“I think I’d probably just tell myself just to enjoy it,” Harper said. “Just really try to keep the enthusiasm there, too. When I first started out, everybody said, ‘Enjoy it. Enjoy the ride. Enjoy the ups and the downs, the good, the bad. Just try to enjoy it the best you can because it goes quick.’
“Looking back on it, I can’t believe it’s been 10 years. There’s just so many memories, from D.C. all the way to here. It’s a lot of fun.”
Leading vs. lefties
With the Phillies facing a left-handed starting pitcher in Colorado’s Kyle Freeland, Jean Segura became the third leadoff hitter used by Girardi in 12 games.
“It’s a lefty look,” Girardi said. “You’ll probably see it a lot.”
Girardi still seems to prefer using catcher J.T. Realmuto as the leadoff man against right-handed pitching. But Segura could also bat atop the order when Realmuto doesn’t play.
Third baseman Alec Bohm started back-to-back games for the first time this season. ... Center fielder Odúbel Herrera, sidelined for the past month with a strained muscle in his right side, had his rehab assignment moved to triple-A Lehigh Valley. He may be on track to rejoin the Phillies during the upcoming homestand. ... The Phillies acquired outfielder Dustin Peterson from the Brewers for cash and assigned him to triple A. Peterson, 27, is 10-for-44 with four doubles in 19 major-league games, most recently in 2019 for the Detroit Tigers. ... Zach Eflin (0-1, 4.50 ERA) is scheduled to start the series finale at 3:10 p.m. Wednesday against Rockies right-hander Germán Márquez (0-0, 3.97) on NBC Sports Philadelphia, MLB Network, and 94-WIP.