Phillies

Bryce Harper has earned right to speak his mind on J.T. Realmuto's contract status

Bryce Harper has earned right to speak his mind on J.T. Realmuto's contract status

Bryce Harper provided the first memorable moment of Phillies summer camp on Wednesday afternoon. 

It wasn’t with a swing or a web gem, but rather it was two words that has everyone talking.

“Sign him!” 

That’s what Harper exclaimed as he returned to the dugout following a home run by J.T. Realmuto in an intrasquad game. 

Harper can claim to be a five-tool player, but you might be able to add a sixth tool to the arsenal because he’s been as effective a representative for Realmuto in contract negotiations as Jeff Berry, Realmuto’s agent. 

In addition to Wednesday’s on-field statement, Harper donned a t-shirt with Realmuto’s name and number during his initial workouts at Citizens Bank Park earlier this month. While Harper denied sending a message to the front office with his wardrobe, he did acknowledge that it would be “terrible and sad” if the Phillies were to lose Realmuto in free agency this offseason. 

If you want to argue that Harper’s actions and statement are an admirable attempt to help a teammate to a large pay day, that’s fair. It’s also likely that Harper views retaining Realmuto as the best path towards contention for the ballclub. 

The Phillies would be naive if they did not expect Harper to have a significant voice in team construction when they inked him to a 13-year, $330 million deal last year. Although it’s fair to assume they would prefer if Harper wasn’t hurting their negotiating position.  

Either way, a player of Harper’s stature and salary certainly has the right to speak his mind on roster matters.  

Let’s say Realmuto and the Phillies agree to a record-setting contract extension for a catcher. That would make the All-Star backstop the third nine-figure player on the Phillies’ payroll (Harper and Zack Wheeler). Keep in mind, this is an organization without a winning season since 2011 and that looks to be several key pieces away from true contention. 

Who knows where the Phillies will find themselves four years down the road? It’s possible Harper and Realmuto will have taken a late October ride or two down Broad Street in that time. It’s also possible that the club will have failed to take the next step in their development, the young pieces never reaching the level needed to contend. At that stage, the club could lack the flexibility to improve due its significant financial obligations. 

If the latter happens, let’s be clear: Harper has forfeited the right to justifiably complain about a perceived lack of commitment or a feeling of being misled about the intentions of ownership. It might be hyperbole to suggest the former NL MVP is forcing the Phillies’ hand with Realmuto, but he’s certainly making it known how he wants the team built. 

Harper does not appear to be that type of person that will turn on the Phillies if things do not go as hoped, but we’ve all been down this road before with unhappy superstars across the sporting landscape. 

It might not be an issue for today, but there’s a chance that day just may come.  

Stay tuned.

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Bryce Harper shakes off the embarrassment of the Birds, lifts Phillies to 'huge' win

Bryce Harper shakes off the embarrassment of the Birds, lifts Phillies to 'huge' win

After being swept in a three-game series by a team that lost 108 games last season, the last thing the Phillies — or their justifiably impatient fans — needed was another sloppy, late-inning loss on Friday night.

They avoided one when Bryce Harper stepped to the plate with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning and delivered Roman Quinn from second base to earn a 6-5 win over the New York Mets at Citizens Bank Park.

From poor defense to poor baserunning to hanging off-speed pitches and a blown save by Hector Neris in the top of the ninth, the Phillies did a lot of things wrong in this game.

But they walked off the field after an umpires' review of the final play at the plate with a victory and that eased a lot of tension on a team that had just lost three in a row to Baltimore.

"We went out there and started off this series right," Harper said. "That's a big win for us after the embarrassment we put up against the Baltimore Orioles. That was pretty terrible. So to be able to start this series off against the Mets on the right foot was huge for us."

The win was just the Phils' second in the last seven games. It snapped a three-game losing streak.

The Phils are 6-9 at the quarter-mark of the 60-game sprint.

An intriguing pitching matchup between Jacob deGrom, winner of the last two National League Cy Young Awards, and Spencer Howard, the Phillies' top pitching prospect, did not materialize. DeGrom was scratched with a stiff neck and Howard exited in the fourth inning with a blister on his right middle finger.

Howard gave up back-to-back homers in the third and trailed, 4-2, when he left the game. The Phillies took the lead in the fifth on a three-run homer by — who else? — J.T. Realmuto. He now has eight homers and 20 RBIs.

The Phillies' bullpen, of course, is the worst in the majors. It came into the night with an ERA of 10.13. Asking it to get 17 outs was a tall order, but it did a pretty good job. Jose Alvarez, Blake Parker, Adam Morgan and Tommy Hunter all put up zeroes until Hector Neris blew the save with two outs in the ninth.

The Phillies came back to the dugout after blowing the lead. Harper described the scene.

"I told them, 'Get me up, give me a chance,'" Harper said. "I love those opportunities when I can come through for my team. We never quit. We never die."

Quinn and Andrew McCutchen started the rally off with a pair of hits against Seth Lugo. Harper delivered his game-winning hit to right field with one out. The ball was hard-hit so Michael Conforto had a chance to throw out Quinn. Third base coach Dusty Baker waved his arm and Quinn circled the base with a wide turn. He eluded Wilson Ramos' tag with a nifty headfirst slide.

Players from both teams huddled on the field while the umpires checked the safe call on replay.

Ninety seconds later, the call was verified.

"I was a little worried," Harper said. "But once he said, 'Safe,' everybody was excited and happy. That's one of the weirder walk-offs I've had, for sure."

Girardi said the early sloppiness was "frustrating," but he cited the bullpen — 5⅔ innings, one run — and some good work on defense late in the game as being positives.

"That was a really important win for us," he said.

Neither Girardi nor Howard was alarmed about the 24-year-old pitcher's blister. Howard called the exit "precautionary," and said he expected to make his next start. The Phillies have an off day Monday so they will have some flexibility in giving Howard extra time before that start if need be.

Harper likes what he's seen of Howard so far.

"The stuff is there," he said. "He just needs to hone it, calm it down a little. Long balls happen. He's going to be a dude for us for a long time."

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Clutch hits from Bryce Harper and J.T. Realmuto and elusiveness from Roman Quinn key Phillies' walk-off win

Clutch hits from Bryce Harper and J.T. Realmuto and elusiveness from Roman Quinn key Phillies' walk-off win

Bryce Harper's base hit in the bottom of the ninth inning scored Roman Quinn from second base and lifted the Phillies to a dramatic 6-5 win over the New York Mets at Citizens Bank Park on Friday night.

Hector Neris blew a one-run lead with two outs in the top of the ninth. It was Neris' second blown save this week.

The winning run came with some drama. Mets rightfielder Michael Conforto made a strong throw to the plate, but Quinn, who had taken a wide turn at third, got his hand to the plate. The play was reviewed and the Phillies shouted in triumph when the verdict was rendered.

The Phillies played over a slew of early miscues in winning for just the second time in seven games and snapping a three-game losing streak.

The Phils are 6-9.

The Mets are 9-12.

Prospect exits early

Right-hander Spencer Howard left his second big-league start in the top of the fourth inning with a blister on the middle finger of his pitching hand.

Howard was not sharp. He allowed seven hits and two walks in 3⅓ innings. He gave up four runs, one of which was unearned. Howard had trouble locating his off-speed stuff. He hung a changeup to Dominic Smith and a breaking ball to Robinson Cano and they hit back-to-back homers in the third inning to put the Mets ahead, 4-2.

After the game, Howard said the early exit was precautionary and that he believes he'll be able to pitch next week. The Phillies are off Monday but play seven games next week with their doubleheader Thursday against the Blue Jays.

Unacceptably sloppy

The Phillies, who lost a game to Baltimore earlier this week on two late and ugly misplays, made a host of miscues early in the game.

Shortstop Didi Gregorius botched the transfer on a potential double-play ball that cost Howard a run in the first inning. They misplayed three balls in the outfield. J.T. Realmuto made a throwing error that set up a run. They also made two baserunning mistakes in scoring position.

Somehow, they managed to win the game.

Ironically, another potential miscue turned into an important defensive play for the Phillies in the top of the eighth. Billy Hamilton swiped second base and the ball squirted away from second baseman Jean Segura as he tried to make the tag. Gregorius alertly retrieved the ball and made a perfect throw to Alec Bohm at third to nail Hamilton.

Just Terrific

Realmuto's three-run homer in the fifth gave the Phils a 5-4 lead. It was his eighth of the season. He has 20 RBIs.

Bullpen

The Phillies' much-maligned bullpen — it entered with an ERA of 10.13, worst in the majors — did the job for most of the night. Lefty Adam Morgan got one of the biggest outs of the game when he retired dangerous Pete Alonso (53 homers last season) on a fly ball to the wall in center to strand two runners and protect a one-run lead in the top of the sixth. 

Morgan entered with one out and inherited a runner at second. He got the second out then walked lefty-hitting Conforto to set up a potentially uncomfortable duel with Alonso and his right-handed power stick. Morgan's fastball has lacked zip so far this season. He muscled up and threw a first-pitch fastball, 93 mph, and Alonso hit it well but not well enough.

Tommy Hunter got five big outs late in the game. He started a huge double play in the seventh by knocking down a Wilson Ramos smash with his bare hand.

Jose Alvarez and Blake Parker both pitched a scoreless inning.

Neris allowed a hit and a walk to open the ninth and Robinson Cano tied the game at 5-5 with a two-out hit.

Though that run hurt, the Phils' bullpen was able to pitch 5⅔ innings of one-run ball.

Bohm contributes

Rookie third baseman Bohm singled home the Phillies' first run. It was his first big-league RBI. He also made a nice running grab of a foul ball down the left-field line to help Morgan preserve a one-run lead in the sixth.

With Bohm at third, Jean Segura has moved to second base and Scott Kingery to a utility role. Kingery spoke about the slump that cost him his starting job, and some nagging injury issues, before the game.

Up next

Aaron Nola (1-1, 2.79) opposes Mets lefty Steven Matz at 6:05 p.m. Saturday night.

Nola has allowed two runs over 14 innings in his last two starts against the Yankees and Braves, respectively. He has racked up 22 strikeouts and walked just one over that span.

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