Bryce Harper relegated to DHing for Phillies because of elbow discomfort
Harper believes the situation is "precautionary," but the Phillies are hoping to see improvement this week.
DENVER — Bryce Harper has started 83 consecutive games for the Phillies, including all 11 so far this season.
Thanks to the designated hitter, his streak lived on Monday night.
Whether it will continue through the week will depend on the health of his right (throwing) elbow. Harper is dealing with “a little tendinitis,” manager Joe Girardi said, and is scheduled to be the DH for all three games against the Colorado Rockies.
“Right now it’s just precautionary,” the reigning National League MVP said before the series opener. “Get treatment on it and try to get through it. I’ve never had arm problems in my life, so this is very new to me. Just trying to feel it out and see what happens.”
Harper winced after making a throw from right field last Monday night against the New York Mets at Citizens Bank Park. Girardi downplayed it after the game, and Harper said it felt fine until the next day when the Phillies used him as the DH.
But Harper played right field in four consecutive games and irritated his elbow on a few throws over the weekend in Miami. He was the DH again Sunday against the Marlins.
The Phillies believe the issue will resolve through rest and haven’t sent Harper for diagnostic tests. Harper said he hasn’t received an injection. Asked to describe the feeling in his elbow, he said, “It just hurts. It just doesn’t feel good when I throw.”
Does it bother Harper when he swings the bat?
“As of now it doesn’t,” Harper said. “When I was throwing, it was sore and it was affecting me a little bit. Over the last couple days when I was able to DH and get treatment on it, it’s felt pretty good.”
Harper’s inability to play the outfield coincides with three games at spacious Coors Field. In his absence, Nick Castellanos played right field, with Kyle Schwarber in left and Matt Vierling in center. Rookie Simón Muzziotti, the Phillies’ best defensive outfielder, began the game on the bench.
The alignment wasn’t ideal given the limited range of Schwarber and Castellanos, in particular. But Girardi said he may use Muzziotti as a late-inning replacement if the Phillies have a lead.
“It’s a challenge for everybody,” Girardi said of the dimensions at Coors Field. “It was a challenge in 1995 when we played here. I mean, it’s just the way it is. You just know that there’s a chance there’s going to be some extra-base hits. There may be a few that fall in between, and you’ve just got to deal with it.”
Another scenario the Phillies didn’t consider: shortening Odúbel Herrera’s minor-league rehab assignment. Sidelined for the last month with a strained muscle in his side, Herrera is 7-for-19 with two doubles in five games for low-A Clearwater.
Herrera may be ready to rejoin the Phillies over the weekend, but Girardi said bringing him to Colorado “would be too rushed.”
Meanwhile, the Phillies will cross their fingers that Harper’s elbow doesn’t worsen and he’s able to return to right field Friday night when the Phillies are back home to face the Milwaukee Brewers.
“I’m hoping,” Harper said. “That’s kind of what we’re feeling right now. Hopefully we can kind of use the DH days for treatment and recovery on my arm and kind of see where we’re at. I can’t tell you it’s going to be perfect. It hopefully gets better than what it has been the last couple days.”
Wheeler on track
Zack Wheeler will make his next start, according to Girardi, despite a notable dip in his average fastball velocity Sunday against the Marlins.
Wheeler didn’t face major league hitters in a short spring training that was further abbreviated for him because of a bout with the flu and rainy weather that prevented him from making a Grapefruit League start. But the Phillies ace began the season on time anyway and has looked, well, like he’s still going through spring training.
In Miami, Wheeler’s fastball averaged 94.4 mph, well below his 97.2 mph average last season when he finished second in the Cy Young Award voting.
“Hopefully that’ll come as I get stronger and get my feet under me,” Wheeler said Sunday. “I’ve just got to figure out how to pitch with that velo for right now, until it comes.”
Girardi believes Wheeler — all of the Phillies’ pitchers, actually — will benefit from a day off Thursday after 13 consecutive games to open the season. Wheeler, who threw Monday under the supervision of pitching coach Caleb Cotham and athletic trainer Paul Buchheit, is lined up to start Saturday against the Brewers.
“These guys get through these three [games] and everyone gets an extra day, which is probably important,” Girardi said. “It’ll be nice.”
Keep an eye on pitching prospect Francisco Morales, who has allowed one hit and struck out six batters in five scoreless, walk-free innings for double-A Reading. The Phillies are converting Morales into a reliever. He could factor into the bullpen mix — and sooner than later. ... Harper will acheive 10 years of major-league service time Tuesday. ... Kyle Gibson (1-1, 3.09 ERA) will face Rockies lefty Kyle Freeland (0-2, 10.00) at 8:40 p.m. Tuesday night on NBC Sports Philadelphia+.