Bryce Harper injury update: A huge sigh of relief with ankle after hit by pitch

Bryce Harper injury update: A huge sigh of relief with ankle after hit by pitch

Phillies fans can let out a huge sigh of relief — Bryce Harper appears to be fine. 

X-rays came back negative and Harper has “minimal swelling” in his ankle, manager Gabe Kapler told reporters in Clearwater Saturday morning. 

Harper expects, “as of right now,” to be ready for opening day, which is just 12 days away. 

“Definitely could have been a lot worse,” Harper told reporters. “I came in feeling good today. ... That was the first time I’ve ever been hit in that ankle bone, you never know what you’re gonna get until you have an X-ray, but it’s just a contusion.”

Harper is day to day and will not play Saturday. He is unsure of his status for Sunday’s game in Clearwater, and he won’t play in either road game Monday or Tuesday. That leaves only a handful of spring contests left for Harper to get more plate appearances and get his timing down. 

In 10 plate appearances this spring, Harper is 0 for 5 with three walks, a base via catcher’s interference, and the hit by pitch Friday that caused all this concern. Harper was hit on the ankle by an errant, 96 mph fastball from Blue Jays pitcher Trent Thornton. 

With the Phillies traveling Monday and Tuesday, Harper will likely stay back in Clearwater to play in minor-league games to get more ABs. It’s common for a player recovering from injury in spring training to do so. 

Kapler has no concerns that Harper will be ready for opening day from a health and timing standpoint. 

“We’re gonna get him the reps he needs to get his rhythm and timing where they need to be,” the manager said. 

“It’s definitely important to get back out there but also to be smart,” Harper added. 

Harper was wearing protection on his foot/shin but it didn’t cover the spot of the ankle where he was hit and doesn’t think a piece of equipment can fully protect against what happened Friday. 

“If I get hit again in that ankle,” Harper said, “it’s kind of like putting money on black.”

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Phillies hire new scouting director Brian Barber away from Yankees

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Phillies hire new scouting director Brian Barber away from Yankees

Brian Barber is the Phillies new director of amateur scouting.

The team announced the appointment on Tuesday afternoon.

Barber, 46, pitched in the major leagues with the St. Louis Cardinals and Kansas City Royals. He comes to the Phillies after spending the last 18 years as a member of the New York Yankees amateur scouting department. He spent the last 10 years in the high-ranking position of national crosschecker.

Barber replaces Johnny Almaraz, who stepped down from the position in early September. Almaraz came to the Phillies from the Atlanta Braves in the fall of 2014 and presided over the last five drafts. 

It had been widely assumed that the Phillies would replace Almaraz with Greg Schilz, their No. 2 man in amateur scouting. Schilz, who joined the Phillies as assistant scouting director in the fall of 2016 after 12 years with the Pittsburgh Pirates, was a finalist for the position, but the team ultimately decided to go outside the organization for the hire.

Barber, who was influential in identifying Yankees power hitter Aaron Judge as a first-round talent in 2013, is the latest man with Yankees roots to join the Phillies organization. Major League bench coach Rob Thomson joined the Phillies before the 2018 season after 28 seasons in the Yankees organization, including 10 on the big-league coaching staff.

The Phillies, of course, could add another former Yankee to the organization in the coming days. Former Yankees catcher and manager Joe Girardi remains a top candidate for the Phillies’ open managerial job. He had a second interview with team officials in Philadelphia on Monday. Buck Showalter and Dusty Baker are the other candidates for the post. The Phils could announce a hire as soon as Thursday, which is an off day in the World Series.

Girardi is also a candidate for managerial openings with the New York Mets and Chicago Cubs. He has interviewed with both teams.

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The Joe Girardi-to-Phillies connections keep getting louder

The Joe Girardi-to-Phillies connections keep getting louder

Joe Girardi was in Philadelphia Monday for his second interview with the Phillies. Will he be the next manager? As this process has played out, it's looked more and more likely.

Beyond our own reporting of how the week is shaping up for the Phillies and that Girardi may very well be the preferred candidate, there were these two items:

If true, it would make sense that of the Phillies' three top decision-makers, John Middleton is the most pro-Girardi. He has to recognize that Girardi has an extremely high approval rating in this city already. Girardi is the overwhelming fan preference. An organization should not base a decision around fan preference, but the Phillies have shown that they do consider it a piece to the puzzle.

A few weeks back, we ranked the eight managerial openings in attractiveness now and over the next three years. The Mets were first but not by a significant margin over the Phillies. They're in slightly better shape with Jacob deGrom, Pete Alonso and Noah Syndergaard, but how many more years will anyone other than deGrom be in that rotation? Syndergaard trade rumors have persisted, Zack Wheeler is a free agent after the World Series and Marcus Stroman is a free agent after 2020.

The Phillies have also been more willing to spend over the last decade than the Mets. Their average end-of-season payroll from 2011-14 was more than $171 million. Last year, their opening day payroll was $140 million and all signs point to more spending this winter.

In all four of those years earlier in the decade (2011-14), the Phillies ended the season with a payroll higher than the Mets have ever carried. If you're Girardi and your two best offers are jobs in major markets that involve immense pressure, wouldn't you rather be with the ownership group you trust more to spend?

The Phillies also have the money to pay Girardi himself — another obviously important factor. Manager salaries don't count against the luxury tax. As Jim Salisbury pointed out on our At the Yard podcast Monday, the next manager's salary might cost the same as a middle reliever. At that point, what is an extra couple million if it means firmly landing the most appealing veteran manager on the market who has the qualities the top of the organization and vast majority of the fan base want?

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