Phillies

Asia can wait — for Tommy Joseph, it's all about playing in the bigs

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Asia can wait — for Tommy Joseph, it's all about playing in the bigs

BOX SCORE

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Asia can wait. Right now, Tommy Joseph is focused on playing in the major leagues. Maybe with the Phillies. Maybe with someone else.

Joseph, who hit 43 homers for the Phillies the last two seasons, is a man without a position in this camp. A series of concussions forced him to give up catching. The emergence of Rhys Hoskins and later the signing of Carlos Santana pushed him off first base. So Joseph finds himself angling for a reserve role with the club, and with management intent on having versatility on its bench, Joseph received a crash course in playing the outfield on Monday. Twenty-four hours later, he started in left field against the Tigers on Tuesday. It was his first experience in the outfield. Ever. He received a passing grade.

“The way camp has gone, everyone is going to have that opportunity to show their versatility and today was my opportunity to play left field,” Joseph said after the 11-6 loss to Detroit. “That’s one thing that’s transpiring in baseball. The more positions you can play, the better off you’ll be in getting an opportunity — no matter what team you’re on. That’s the way I looked at it. Give it a shot.

“When it comes down to it, you’re going to do everything you can to help your team win knowing that ultimately it’s a tryout for all the other teams, as well. Every team is watching every other game, whether they’re scouting you because they’re going to play you, or they’re looking at you because you might be valuable to their team.”

There are several ways Joseph’s situation could work out over the next month. He could make the club. He could be optioned to Triple A. He could be waived if the club needs 40-man roster space. He could be traded. What won’t happen — not now, at least — is him playing in Asia. There was serious interest in Joseph from teams in Japan and Korea this winter. Joseph spoke with former Phillie Darin Ruf, who is entering his second season in Korea, to get his opinion on the experience. In the end …

“You never want to give up the opportunity to play in the major leagues,” Joseph said. “Darin loves it over there. His family loves it. He recommended I go.

“But I want a chance to be here and play in the big leagues.”

Joseph played four innings in the outfield. He moved to right field on the fly for an out when the Phillies shifted for a matchup. Enterprising manager Gabe Kapler did not rule out doing that during the season.

“We continue to want our guys to be flexible and we want to give everyone their best chance to demonstrate that flexibility,” Kapler said. “First base is a position that we have some depth at on our major-league roster. We want Tommy to have every opportunity to succeed so we want to give him some looks out there — and we got his bat in the lineup and that’s an important factor as well.”

Joseph had a single, a double and drove in a run.

Jayson Werth always had a hunch his pal Bryce Harper would end up a Phillie

Jayson Werth always had a hunch his pal Bryce Harper would end up a Phillie

CLEARWATER, Fla. — On the one-year anniversary of his decision to join the Phillies, Bryce Harper received a visit from an old friend Friday. 

The visitor did not need directions to the Phillies' clubhouse. Jayson Werth spent four seasons with the Phils and helped the team win the World Series in 2008 before moving on to Washington, where he played with Harper for six seasons.

Werth became a mentor to Harper in Washington and as Harper's service-time clock ticked toward free agency, Werth always believed there was a chance his friend would find his way to Philadelphia.

"I always thought this would be a possible destination for him, even way back when, for a bunch of reasons," Werth said. "Kind of where the team was, the money was right, the owner was right, the town's right.

"But more than anything else," Werth added with widening eyes, "Citizens Bank Park is just an awesome place to hit. We always talked about that.

"I don't want people to think I was pushing him there. As players, you just have those conversations. We talked about every stadium while we were stretching in the outfield, while we were on airplanes. I couldn't even figure out how many hours I spent talking to this kid, so stuff like that comes up."

In his seven seasons with the Nationals from 2011 to 2017, Werth tormented the Phillies by hitting .291 with a .922 OPS, 15 homers and 45 RBIs in 52 games.

Werth's 16 career homers in Citizens Bank Park — he hit one as a member of the Dodgers — are second-most at the park by a visiting hitter. David Wright of the New York Mets hit 22 in the park.

Harper hit .260 with an .882 OPS, 35 homers and 114 RBIs in his first season with the Phillies last year. He had a .939 OPS, 20 homers and 63 RBIs at home.

Werth had a love-hate relationship with Phillies fans. They mostly loved him when he wore the red pinstripes and mostly rode him when he moved on to Washington.

He laughs about it now.

"As bad as they can be, they can also be really good," Werth said. "I took it with a grain of salt. It was kind of fun. I was getting booed off the field and at the same time, I was probably playing my best baseball every game I was there. So it was good. It raises everything."

By now Philadelphia fans are familiar with Harper's fiery, hair-flying style of play.

"I always thought that would be something Philadelphia would love," Werth said.

Werth retired in 2018 so both he and Harper were gone from Washington when the Nationals, after failing to make it past the Division Series four times in seven years, finally won the World Series last fall.

Harper watched the entire World Series on television and was thrilled for his old friends.

Werth actually attended the World Series games in Washington and was in attendance for the Nats' Game 7 clincher in Houston.

He felt he had to be.

"I was looking for closure," he said. "It felt like it closed the book on my career, like mission accomplished, job well done. 

"I signed there when nobody wanted anything to do with that place. Harper was a first-round pick when they were coming off 100-loss seasons. Me, Bryce, Ian Desmond, Ryan Zimmerman and a bunch of other guys in 2011 and 2012 kind of turned the franchise around and the fruits of that labor were ripe for the picking last year, finally. So I was elated for those guys and the owners, the front office, (GM) Mike Rizzo, the whole thing."

Werth did not visit the victorious Washington clubhouse after Game 7.

"That wasn't for me," he said. "It was for those guys."

Harper is entering the second season of a 13-year, $330-million contract with the Phillies. The Phillies are banking on him leading the club to a World Series title one of these years.

It's something Harper, a former National League Rookie of the Year and MVP, badly wants.

"He wants to win," Werth said. "He's got everything. There's really not much on the list for him except that.

"He's the type of kid that grew up wanting to be a Hall of Famer. Most kids grow up wanting to be big leaguers. He grew up wanting to be a Hall of Famer. The ring, winning a championship, the parade, all that stuff comes with it. That's not a stretch for me to think those are things he wants."

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Phillies Talk podcast: Opinions on Bryce Harper after a year in Phillies pinstripes

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Phillies Talk podcast: Opinions on Bryce Harper after a year in Phillies pinstripes

Jim Salisbury and Corey Seidman got together for a lil' Phillies Talk on the one-year anniversary of the Bryce Harper signing. Aside from their opinions and big-picture takeaways from Harper's first year with the Phillies, the guys discussed Zack Wheeler's imminent debut, Jean Segura and Andrew McCutchen.

• Zack Wheeler debuts Saturday — what are we looking for?

• Some Phillies hitters thrilled to not have to face Wheeler anymore.

• Why so much Jean Segura at 3B early in camp?

• Defensive upgrades in the infield.

• Where is Andrew McCutchen? How does the knee look?

• Recalling the buzz in Phillies camp when Harper signed.

• The overlooked aspect of Harper's first season in Philly.

• How many Phillies records can Harper set?

• Honesty from J.T. Realmuto about Phillies pitchers, coaching changes and disrespect from the outside.

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More on the Phillies