When Bryce Harper didn’t appear in the lineup Sunday or Monday, the Phillies, through manager Joe Girardi, denied that his absence was injury-related.
Tuesday, the star right fielder went on the 10-day injured list.
Harper, hitless with 10 strikeouts in his last 16 at-bats, is out with a bruised left wrist/forearm, according to the team, an issue that Girardi said stems from getting hit by a pitch April 28 in St. Louis. The move is backdated to Sunday, leaving Harper ineligible to be reinstated to the roster until June 2.
“He’s just not ready to go,” Girardi said Tuesday before the Phillies continued their four-game series in Miami. “I thought he’d be ready on Monday or Tuesday. He’s not. So we decided to IL him.”
The Phillies are already without star catcher J.T. Realmuto (bruised left wrist) and shortstop Didi Gregorius (right elbow inflammation). Now they’re subtracting Harper from an offense that ranked 10th in the 15-team National League in runs scored and ninth in OPS through Monday night’s games.
Harper went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts Saturday night against the Red Sox and called Girardi on Sunday morning to report soreness in his wrist. Despite being asked multiple times about Harper’s health, Girardi intentionally misled the public for what he termed competitive reasons.
“I didn’t want [Boston manager Alex] Cora to know that I wasn’t going to use Bryce that day,” Girardi said. “Thought he’d be OK on Monday. He wasn’t. Didn’t really want [Marlins manager] Donnie [Mattingly] to know. I understand you want to know, but there are distinct advantages that I can give another club if they know everything that’s going on over here.”
While that’s true, it doesn’t exactly engender trust going forward in the manager’s medical updates.
“I’m sorry that I had to do that, but we’re trying to win games,” Girardi said. “There’s some times I’ve just got to do what I’ve got to do for our club.”
In his first two seasons with the Phillies, Harper started 212 of 222 games (95.5%) and appeared in 215, playing through a lower back injury in the second half of the shortened 2020 season. The only time he missed back-to-back games was when he went on a three-day paternity leave for the birth of his first child in August 2019.
Last weekend, Harper said he believes that star athletes have an obligation to play through pain.
“When fans show up every single night, they want to see the superstar player in the lineup,” he said. “They spent the money in the ballpark. They spent the money to get here. They take their kids and this might be the only game they get to all year along. I try to be in the lineup every single day no matter what I’m feeling or anything like that.”
But Harper has dealt with lingering back, wrist, and shoulder injuries through two months this season, appearing in 38 of the first 48 games.
Harper didn’t suffer a head injury after being struck in the face by a 97-mph fastball April 28 in St. Louis. But the ball ricocheted off his left wrist, causing him to miss three games. He aggravated the injury when he used his hand to brace a fall around third base May 2 and missed four games. He also missed time recently with a sore right shoulder.
Although Harper doesn’t use the injuries to explain his slump this month, they seem to have taken a toll. He’s 2-for-25 with 13 strikeouts since May 15, dropping his batting average and OPS from .318 and 1.030 to .274 and .884, respectively. He hasn’t homered in 44 plate appearances dating to the first inning May 11 in Washington.
“I feel good,” Harper said last weekend. “I think I have good days and bad days. I’m getting to where I need to be, health-wise. My back feels good. My wrist feels good. Shoulder is getting better by the day. There’s some pitches where I feel it, and there are some pitches where I won’t.”
Center fielder Roman Quinn returned from the injured list to take Harper’s place. Quinn had been sidelined for three weeks with a lacerated right index finger.
The Phillies aren’t alone among NL East teams dealing with injuries to several key players. The New York Mets entered Tuesday night leading the division despite having three-quarters of their infield (Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil, and J.D. Davis), two-thirds of their outfield (Brandon Nimmo and Michael Conforto), and four starting pitchers (ace Jacob deGrom, Taijuan Walker, Carlos Carrasco, and Noah Syndergaard) on the injured list.
After facing six batters and giving up four runs on four hits in the seventh inning Monday night, veteran reliever Brandon Kintzler’s ERA stands at 8.22. He has allowed five homers in 15⅓ innings, matching his total from 57 innings in 2019 with the Chicago Cubs. “The shape of his sinker is not right,” Girardi said. “Not only is it not sinking the way it usually does, it’s getting too much of the plate. We’re trying to figure it out.” Girardi suggested it may have to do with Kintzler’s hand position as he releases the ball. ... Left fielder Andrew McCutchen got a breather after starting 19 consecutive games in a span of 21 days. ... Aaron Nola is scheduled to start Wednesday night.