PHILS INSIDER

Harper makes his presence felt in first game back from injured list

PHILS INSIDER

Bryce Harper says he's 100 percent healthy.

Wrist feels good. Back feels good. Shoulder feels good.

"I'm ready to go and excited to be back," he said before his first start since May 22 on Saturday afternoon.

"When I step on the field, I try to bring passion into what I do every single day. I'm excited to get out there and grind with my guys. (The ballpark is) 100-percent capacity, so I'm excited to be out there for a game and be with the fans. Hopefully, win today, win tomorrow, win the series, and we can get going."

The Phillies did win Saturday. They bounced back from a 2-1 loss in which they wasted a strong outing from Zack Wheeler on Friday night with a 5-2 win over the Washington Nationals.

Andrew McCutchen keyed the win with a three-run homer and relievers Ranger Suarez, Jose Alvarado and Connor Brogdon all got big outs. 

Harper more than helped.

He had an RBI single, stole a base, scored a run, was hit by a pitch, went first to third on the bases and froze a runner at third with a strong throw from right field.

"It's great to have him back," manager Joe Girardi said. "He did a nice job. There's a lot of different things he can do. We missed that.

"It's not only his production, but his presence is important. As a manager, you always know where the dangerous guys are. They affect how you manage a game."

Harper had been on the injured list with a left forearm contusion, which was the result of his getting hit by a pitch in St. Louis on April 28. Harper was actually hit in the face with a 97 mph fastball that night. Amazingly, he suffered no facial injuries. The ball, however, caromed off his face and hit his forearm/wrist with some force. Harper missed a few days then returned May 2. He played in 15 games, hit just .211 with 26 strikeouts in 57 at-bats before shutting it down and eventually going on the 10-day disabled list.

 

"It really just wasn't feeling right when I was swinging or any other activity, really," Harper said. "I needed to get the swelling out of there. I think the swelling was probably irritating me really bad. We finally just decided to take the 10 days to give it a break and give it a little rest. It's definitely helped. I feel a lot better.

Harper said he had normal trepidation getting back in the batter's box after taking a 97 mph fastball to the face from St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Genesis Cabrera, but it was nothing he couldn't overcome.

"It's definitely nervous, right? You get a little nervous," he said. "But I felt pretty good. Like I said before, it's part of the game. Any time you step in the batter's box, you feel like it could happen. And that's how I felt prior to getting hit."

In the batter's box, fastballs gave Harper some trouble in the 15 games he played after getting hit. Harper would not blame that on the sore wrist.

"Sometimes it just happens," he said. "Sometimes they just get it by you. You have to figure it out and come back and try to be better."

Harper entered Saturday's game hitting .274 with seven homers, 13 RBIs and a .884 OPS in 38 games. His strikeout percentage of 27.8 was the highest of his career.

In addition to his wrist, Harper has dealt with nagging issues in his lower back and right shoulder this season. The trip to the IL has cleared up everything.

"Everything's good," he said. "Everything's good."

To make room for Harper on the active roster, the Phillies placed reliever Hector Neris on paternity leave.

GREGORIUS MAKING PROGRESS

Didi Gregorius said the pain and swelling has subsided in his right elbow. He took batting practice Saturday. Gregorius will likely need some minor-league playing time before he's activated.

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