|Bryce Harper during first Phillies practice
The signing has been made official. The press conference has been held in the gorgeous and warm Florida sunshine. Phillies Nation has now seen their new superstar right fielder, Bryce Harper, don the Phillies red pinstripes and cap.
The fans watched with adoring eyes and listened with melting hearts as he extolled the values of family and community and dedication to the organization that he feels for and from Phillies ownership and management. The very values that were so important to him and his wife, Kayla, in picking Philadelphia as city to both play for and in which to raise a family.
The fans are flooding the phone lines down at Citizens Bank Park to order game tickets at a rate in the tens of thousands daily. They streamed in to the Majestic Clubhouse store in South Philly and waited in line by the hundreds to be the first to purchase Harper merchandise: jerseys, shirseys, caps, t-shirts.
Now the sense of excitement is beginning to transform to the ball field. Today for the first time, Bryce Harper strode from the clubhouse at Spectrum Field and walked out into that Florida sunshine to take part in his first practice with his new teammates.
Harper stretched and did sprints. He played catch. He chatted up beloved old-timers Larry Bowa and Charlie Manuel. And he stepped into the cage to take his first hacks with that powerful left-handed bat, the first of tens of thousands that he hopes to take over the next 13 years with the Phillies.
What the fans are waiting for now is to see their new hero step up to the plate in that Phillies uniform in an official game. To see him trot out to man his position in right field. They cannot wait to see him play in Grapefruit League action. But they are apparently going to have to wait just a little bit longer for that event.
Harper told the media following today’s practice session that he hopes to get roughly 40-45 in-game at-bats prior to the start of the regular season on March 28. Towards that end, the Phillies are going to ease him in by letting him face live pitching on the back fields in Clearwater during this coming week.
The Phillies are almost certainly going to want him to make his debut in front of the home fans in Clearwater. So, when might that debut actually occur? You can rule out Harper playing in Tuesday’s game against the Saint Louis Cardinals. There is a split-squad game on Thursday against the Yankees, but that is not likely either.
The best guess from here is that Harper will make his Phillies game debut either next Saturday, March 9, against the Toronto Blue Jays or on Monday, March 11, against the Tampa Bay Rays.
NOTE: a few hours after this piece originally published it was announced that Harper would likely debut on Saturday, March 9
https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js If Harper debuts next Saturday against the Jays, it would be the first of 16 remaining Phillies spring games. Assuming an average of three plate appearances per game, that would give him 48 appearances against opposition pitching before the regular season opener. That seems about right.
So if you’re headed down from the Philly area or elsewhere for some Florida warmth and spring training action, those are the games for which I would be sure to have tickets. And if you’re going to be down after that point, you’re in luck, because you are certainly going to get a look at the newest Phillies superstar.