Phillies fans are going to love fiery new slugger Bryce Harper

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Harper plays the game the way Philly fans like – emotionally

He is a power-hitting version of Pete Rose. A fiery competitor who is a genuine superstar in Major League Baseball. Now, just as Rose did exactly 40 years ago, Bryce Harper will transform from a feared and hated rival to a revered hero in Philadelphia.

After a months-long pursuit of the 26-year-old free agent, the Philadelphia Phillies have come to a 13-year agreement that gives Harper the largest contract in U.S. pro sports history and will add him to what was already a vastly improved ball club.
In conjunction with other moves that the club had previously made this off-season, the Phillies now have to be considered as favorites to win the National League East Division crown. This addition helps to transform the team immediately into a World Series favorite as well.
Harper is a Las Vegas, Nevada native who became one of the most hyped young baseball players in decades. He had been called “Baseball’s Lebron“, referring to basketball superstar Lebron James, when Harper appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated as a 16-year-old high schooler a decade ago.
Drafted by the Washington Nationals out of a Nevada junior college with the first overall pick of the 2010 MLB Amateur Draft, Harper was selected two spots ahead of the other big name free agent whom the Phillies also pursued this off-season, Manny Machado.
In his lone full minor league campaign back in 2011, Harper blitzed through two levels with a .297/.392/.501 slash line. He banged out 17 homers and stole 26 bases in 109 games that summer, reaching Double-A as an 18-year-old.
After a brief stint to begin the 2012 season at Triple-A Syracuse, Harper received the call to Washington at the end of April. Other than a couple of injury rehab stints early in his career, he has never returned to the minor leagues.

In that 2012 season with the Nationals at just age 19, Harper slashed .270/.340/.477 with 22 homers, 57 extra-base hits, 59 RBI, and 98 runs scored. He was named to the National League All-Star team that summer, and when the season was over he received the NL Rookie of the Year Award.
Finishing 80-81 the year before, a distant 21 games behind the Phillies, Harper helped spark the Nationals to a franchise-record 98-win season as a rookie. Washington snapped the Phillies five-year string of NL East titles and took over as the division’s perennial power team.
In his seven seasons there, Washington would capture four NL East crowns and finish second in each of the other three years. Unfortunately, playoff heartbreak became a regular occurrence for those Nationals teams. The club lost in the NLDS all four times that they reached the postseason, with three of those series going the distance.
Harper has produced a career .279/.388/.512 slash line. The left-handed slugger has belted 184 home runs and 183 doubles. Harper has also stolen 75 bases over his career and produced 521 RBI with 610 runs scored. Over the course of his career, Harper has accumulated a 27.4 total WAR value.
Despite the fact that his 2013-14 and 2017 seasons were cut short by injury, Harper has been a six-time NL All-Star. His best year came back in 2015 when at age 22, Harper won the National League Most Valuable Player award and his lone career Silver Slugger award.
Fans may recall an infamous run-in between Harper and closer Jonathan Papelbon in September of 2015 in a game against the Phillies. Papelbon had been dealt away by the Phillies to the Nationals in July of that season in exchange for Nick Pivetta.
In that incident, Harper had popped out to left field. On his return to the dugout, Papelbon immediately came after him and the two exchanged words over what the reliever felt was a failure of Harper to run out the play. Papelbon then charged Harper, grabbing him by the throat and shoving him against the dugout wall before the two were separated.
Phillies fans are very well aware of Papelbon’s asinine personality from his 2012-15 years here. While it is certainly hard to hold it against Harper for getting under the skin of the abrasive Papelbon, there have been a number of times over his first handful of seasons that Harper has lost his cool. He became known for tossing his helmet and bats and was ejected from games a number of times.

However, with experience and maturity in both his career and in life, Harper has mostly turned that reputation around. He was tossed just once last season. Jamal Collier at MLB.com quoted him last September 15, just a week prior to that lone 2018 ejection:
That’s my biggest thing this year, I don’t wanna get tossed. I think I go to the edge and kind of quiet up. Because there’s no reason to. At the end of the day, if I’m 0-for-4 or 4-for-4, it’s just part of the game. I’d rather be 0-for-4 or 4-for-4 and not get thrown out of the game, where I’m only 0-for-2 and we lose the game in the eighth or the ninth.”
In December 2016, Harper married his longtime lady, the former Kayla Varner. The two are both practicing Mormons, and the new bride gave this personal insight to Esther Lee at The Knot:
He’s this big, professional baseball player and you would never know it off the field because he treats everyone with respect and is genuine. He’s selfless, the most selfless guy ever… I think that’s what always attracted me to him. And he’s goofy and funny—he loves to play pranks on me, and as much as I get annoyed by it, I secretly love it—he’s just the best. I love him.”
This is the Harper that fans should be seeing as he moves through what should be the prime years of his career in a Phillies uniform. A player who wears his emotions on his sleeve, and who will occasionally lose control of those. But also, one who is multi-talented, plays the game hard, and who is a fun and genuine person.
Playing his home games at Citizens Bank Park could elevate Harper’s power numbers to another level. Phillies fans have not seen this type of consistent game power in the lineup since Ryan Howard‘s heyday nearly a decade ago.
Asked by Ken Rosenthal at The Athletic as to how he would handle the addition of a Harper, Kapler stated the following:
I would handle it the way I would handle any other major challenge, by throwing all of my energy and effort into supporting a superstar player and raising the bar for them simultaneously. Those are two things we can do around here very well — support players and raise the bar for them. I don’t think you can do one without the other. I don’t think you can ask or challenge a player to do things differently if you don’t first come with a high degree of support and care.
With veterans such as Andrew McCutchenJ.T. Realmuto, and Jake Arrieta in the dugout, and with a homegrown leader in Rhys Hoskins, the skipper shouldn’t have anything to worry about as all of the new personalities and talent begin to mesh into a cohesive unit.
This announcement should also serve as a lesson to the many Phillies and general baseball fans who bought into every rumor that popped up for weeks that Harper didn’t want to come here or was leaning in some other direction. That lesson? Don’t jump at every Twitter or internet rumor being pushed by some source just because they have a blue check-mark next to their name.

This likely puts a capper on what has clearly been the single greatest off-season in Philadelphia Phillies history. Kudos especially to general manager Matt Klentak for getting the work done, and to principal owner John Middleton for his leadership – and his money. I think that I can speak for most of the fan base when I say, let’s wrap this story now so that I can go to the website and order some Phillies tickets.
Originally published at Phillies Nation as “From rival to revered: Philly fans will love fiery superstar Bryce Harper

Injuries continue to rise at 2019 Phillies spring training

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Hernandez joins a growing list of Phillies hurt in Clearwater

Barely two weeks into spring training and players are dropping like flies with the Philadelphia Phillies. Already down two position players and a pitcher over this past week, the injury ranks grew by one more today.

It was announced this morning that second baseman Cesar Hernandez suffered what was described by Todd Zolecki of MLB.com as a “Grade 1 right hip flexor strain” while running the bases during Wednesday’s 4-2 loss to the Minnesota Twins in Clearwater.
Per the Summit Medical Group: “A hip flexor strain is a stretch or tear of a muscle in your hip. You use the hip flexor muscles when you flex or lift your knee, do high kicks, or bend at the waist.
The injury presents with pain in the area where your thigh meets your hip. Treatments requires that an athlete such as Hernandez cease all activities that cause the pain. In his case that would be pretty much every baseball activity.
Per Zolecki there is no timetable for his return. Assuming Hernandez injury actually is a Grade 1, that is the mildest version. However, these types of injuries normally take a few weeks to fully heal. Rushing back could only cause a recurrence and worsening. In the worse case these injuries can take six weeks or more.

For a player whose speed and ability to pivot and otherwise move around the second base position, this is certainly a setback. This could well open an oppportunity for soon-to-be 25-year-old Scott Kingery to get most of the playing time at the Keystone position in the coming weeks, and to wrestle away the starting job.
Hernandez turns 29-years-old in May. He is signed for this coming season at $7.75 million, and would again be eligible for arbitration next winter. He can then become a free agent following the 2020 campaign.
The native of Venezuela has six years of big-league experience, all with the Phillies. He has a career .276/.357/.374 slash line and last season produced career highs with 15 homers, 60 RBI and 91 runs scored and tied a career-high with 19 stolen bases.
However, those totals also came in a career-high 708 plate appearances. His batting average dropped more than 40 points to the .253 mark, the lowest of his full seasons. Hernandez produced eight fewer extra-base hits than the previous season when he had 131 fewer plate appearances.
Hernandez was particularly ineffective as the Phillies collapsed over the last couple months of the 2018 season. From July 30 onward he slashed just .220/.321/.332 with nine extra-base hits over his final 250 plate appearances.
The Phillies had previously lost center fielders Odubel Herrera and Roman Quinn and reliever Tommy Hunter to injuries that will also leave each of them out for an indeterminate period of time. The club has to hope this situation halts quickly as their depth is going to be tested sorely as things already stand.

Bryce Harper appears to be taking final offers as free agency process nears an end

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Harper met with the Phillies, Dodgers and Giants in recent days

For months, the Philadelphia Phillies were among the leading contenders to land one of the two big free agents available during this Hot Stove season.

With infielder Manny Machado coming off the market last week, the focus of the team was squarely on the other prize. Now it appears that the battle for outfielder Bryce Harper may be finally drawing to a close.
The Phillies may have put their final best offer on the table this past weekend when principal owner John Middleton flew to Las Vegas and met on Saturday with Harper, his wife Kayla, and agent Scott Boras. Middleton then returned to Florida and has said that he will make no further public comments until the process is complete.
On Sunday it was the Los Angeles Dodgers turn to meet with the Harper group in Sin City. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts was part of that Dodgers contingent and had this to say per Bob Nightengale of USA Today: “It was good, just trying to get to know each other. I think in the spirit of us, the Dodgers, vetting a certain process makes sense and for those guys to do their due diligence as well.
Then on Tuesday the San Francisco Giants took their shot, with CEO Larry Baer and president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi known to have taken part in meetings with the Harper team. Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area reports that their sources indicate “the Giants and Harper’s team have discussed a 10-year contract.
If the most recent reports are to be believed, this would mean that both the Phillies and Giants have made long-term offers in excess of $300 million total dollars. It is believed that the Dodgers are hoping to lure Harper to SoCal with a more lucrative annual average value deal for a shorter term, perhaps three-to-five years for $35-40 million AAV.
There has also been increased speculation that a Harper deal for the long-term would have to include a player opt-out after three years. That would be smart from his perspective for a number of reasons.
First, it would allow him to re-enter free agency while still in his prime at age 29. Second, it would come a year after the free agency of Mike Trout, which will certainly elevate financial and other terms for all players. Third, it would come just as a new Basic Agreement was due between the players and Major League Baseball.

Everything is speculative at this point. Numerous sources are coming out with proclamations and predictions on a daily basis, stating that their individual sources have some new inside information to offer. Frequently these sources have differed wildly or outright contradicted others.
One thing feels certain. With spring training underway, game action already taking place in both the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues, and the calendar about to turn to March, this process is drawing to a close. These meetings for the Phillies, Dodgers, and Giants were very likely a chance to put up their last, best offers.
I am predicting that we have an end to this saga before the weekend. Let’s see what happens, Phillies Nation.

The Phillies lose Roman Quinn to injury once again

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Perennially injured outfielder Roman Quinn goes down again

This is not a repeat. Roman Quinn is injured. The Phillies outfielder has suffered what has been called a mild right oblique strain, will have an MRI on Thursday, and will miss an undetermined amount of time.

An oblique injury is potentially debilitating for a baseball player as this core muscle is activated during both hitting and throwing. Should the MRI reveal a mild strain, Quinn could return to action after the weekend. If severe, we could be talking about months.
He’s very disappointed, and I’m disappointed for him,” said Phillies manager Gabe Kapler per Meghan Montemurro of The Athletic.
Kapler and Quinn are not the only two individuals now disappointed with this latest development. All of Phillies Nation is rightfully disappointed. The 25-year-old had a real opportunity with fellow outfielder Odubel Herrera also lost to injury to take a clear lead in the battle for the 2019 Phillies starting center field job.
Drafted in the second round of the 2011 MLB Amateur Draft by the Phillies out of a Florida high school as the 66th player chosen overall, Quinn was ranked by MLB Pipeline as a Top 10 Phillies prospect every year from 2013-16.

Over parts of seven minor league seasons, Quinn hit .278 with a .353 on-base percentage and 183 stolen bases over 429 games. He has appeared in 65 games with the Phillies split between the 2016 and 2018 seasons, hitting .266 with a .340 OBP, 15 steals and 23 runs scored.
Quinn’s dynamic impact at the top of the Phillies lineup when healthy has been undeniable. It was just last August in an interview with the local Philly SportsRadio 94 WIP morning showthat Kapler said that Quinn was “as talented and physically gifted as anyone on our roster.
But that entire “when healthy” part has become the more relevant when evaluating his potential contributions. The fact is that the team simply cannot rely on Quinn remaining healthy for any length of time. Certainly not enough to depend on him as a starting option.
Quinn said he was actually getting the MRI at 12:30 today. “I’ve lost the words. … I do pretty much everything that I possibly can to play this game and go out there and play. I keep having setback after setback after setback. It’s frustrating, man. It’s really frustrating.”

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Quinn has missed large swaths of time over the years with a variety of injuries: torn Achilles tendon, torn left quadriceps, concussion, strained elbow ligament, torn right middle finger ligament, broken toe. Now a right oblique strain.
I’ve been a vocal supporter of Quinn in both written pieces and on social media. I’m on record as saying previously that, if healthy, he is a better all-around player than Herrera and should be the Phillies starting center fielder. This latest injury is yet another sign that we simply cannot depend on him to remain healthy long enough to be relied upon as an everyday starter.
With the loss of both Herrera and Quinn, the Phillies starting outfield would now feature Andrew McCutchen in left, Aaron Altherr in center, and Nick Williams in right, with Dylan Cozens and Shane Robinson as the only experienced back-ups. The injuries could spur ownership and management to push even harder to sign Bryce Harper as a free agent.

Phillies lose reliever Tommy Hunter as first pitching injury of 2019

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Hunter becomes the first arm to go down in spring training

When objectively evaluating the Philadelphia Phillies 2019 roster for potential strengths and weaknesses, the bullpen would have to be listed on the “strengths” side of the ledger.

The addition of a few talented veterans this off-season to a solid returning group and some growing young arms has the pen looking stronger and deeper than it has in years.
Now less than two weeks into 2019 spring training that bullpen depth will begin to be tested. It’s first member has gone down due to injury. Tommy Hunter will be shut down for in indeterminate amount of time with a Grade 1 strain of the flexor muscle in his right pitching arm.
The flexor mass is a collection of muscles and tendons which come together in the forearm near the elbow. They function by allowing you to turn and flex your wrist. The injury as it affects a pitcher such as Hunter is described as follows by Robert G. Najarian, MD with Inova:
With flexor mass strains, pitchers usually don’t feel pain until the follow-through phase of the pitch. That’s when you need the flexor mass to snap the wrist to get the ball in the strike zone. When the flexor mass is injured, the ball often ends high and pitchers can have problems locating their pitch.
In general, Najarian states, the injury is treated with rest, anti-inflammatories, and a strength/rehabilitation program. Some players are out for just two weeks. For others the recovery can take as long as six to eight weeks. It all depends upon the severity of the injury and the individual player’s ability to recuperate.
The hope is that the Phillies and Hunter caught the injury early enough that this method of recovery will do the job. If such an injury is allowed to go untreated for too long, it could result in ligament damage and possibly the dreaded Tommy John surgery.
Hunter was signed by the Phillies as a free agent in December 2017 to a two-year, $18 million contract. The 32-year-old, 11-year veteran will not throw for two weeks and then will be re-evaluated.

The Phillies bullpen ranked around the middle of baseball last season. The club’s relievers as a group ranked 18th in ERA and BAA, 10th in K/9, and 11th in saves and K/BB among the 30 teams of Major League Baseball.
Hunter was likely going to be called upon by manager Gabe Kapler in the 5th-7th innings. He is one of a strong group of right-handed relievers that also includes David RobertsonPat NeshekHector NerisSeranthony DominguezJuan NicasioEdubray Ramos, and Victor Arano.
Teams usually lose players at some point during the spring training process. But this marks the second injury to a player who was expected to make-up part of the Opening Day roster. Outfielder Odubel Herrera was lost for an undetermined length of time with a hamstring injurylast week.
There is enough roster depth to cover for the loss of Herrera and Hunter at this point. The hope is that these are the most significant injuries that the Phillies have to deal with as they prepare for what is hoped to be a playoff-contending campaign.