All of Philadelphia exhaled deeply on Saturday when the word came down that Bryce Harper was not seriously injured by Trent Thornton’s 96 mph fastball that grotesquely hit the $330 million man’s left ankle bone. Thoughts of Harper missing Opening Day filled everyone’s minds for about 24 hours, but barring a catastrophe over these next few days, the free agent prize of the off-season will be in the starting lineup against the Atlanta Braves on March 28.
However, that won’t stop Phillies fans from worrying, especially since Harper has yet to record a base hit this spring.
Before the internet polls go up asking “Are you worried about Harper’s hit-less spring?” this preemptive piece can answer that question for you right now.
No, you should not be worried about anything you’re seeing from Bryce Harper right now.
Harper signed well after the start of spring training, so he is undoubtedly behind the curve, both literally and figuratively. But he’s not a young player like Scott Kingery, someone that should need a ton of time to get his timing back. That being said, he is swinging late on good fastballs and needs to see more breaking pitches over the next 10 days.
Because he signed late, he’s only played in five games so far this spring. That’s a ridiculously small sample size, and it’s even more irrelevant because it’s taking place during spring training. Bear in mind the second half of what the Phillies are doing right now. They’re in spring training, so it’s no surprise that Harper is 0-for-8 thus far. The good news is that Harper is getting on base early on, having walked four times already.
Harper has also faced some tough left-handers in his limited action. On Friday, he battled against reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell, and on Sunday, he went hit against Yankees star James Paxton, two of the best left-handers in the American League.
The best news about Harper’s ankle injury being just a minor bruise is that he will continue to get in-game reps. Had he missed a week of spring training, he may not have been quite ready to start the regular season, although he surely would have been in the starting lineup on Opening Day. But this gives him a chance to pile up some more ABs in the meantime, something that will certainly benefit him as he gets ready for the first pitch he’ll see in Philadelphia a week from Thursday.
On Episode 268 of Hittin’ Season, we discussed Harper’s “slow” start and why we’re not worried at all about it. Also, we answered a full slate of mailbag questions and heard the greatest Harry Kalas impersonation of all-time. Tune in and subscribe!