Phillies

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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Virus has Phillies in holding pattern with J.T. Realmuto and Seranthony Dominguez

Virus has Phillies in holding pattern with J.T. Realmuto and Seranthony Dominguez

Because of the coronavirus health crisis and the delay in starting the Major League Baseball season, the Phillies remain in a holding pattern on a couple of significant baseball matters, general manager Matt Klentak said Thursday.

It's still unclear whether reliever Seranthony Dominguez will opt to have his injured right elbow surgically repaired. The health crisis has prevented Dominguez from getting a second opinion from orthopedic surgeon James Andrews. Dominguez is currently with family in his native Dominican Republic.

"Medicine is not always black and white," Klentak said. "There's a possibility it may head down that (surgical) road, but until he gets the second opinion, we have no firm declaration. For a lot of players, surgery is a last option, particularly when the surgery keeps you out as long as Tommy John surgery does. Before we go down that road, we want to make sure everyone is in agreement on what the right course of action is."

Dominguez saw Andrews shortly after injuring his elbow in early June last season. Surgery was not recommended at that time, but Dominguez missed the remainder of the season. He had a setback in August and again in March and all signs point to his needing surgery. Andrews would be a likely person to handle the surgery, but he is not seeing patients at the moment because of the health crisis.

Surgery, whenever it happens, would sideline Dominguez for more than a year.

The other matter currently on hold involves All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto and the team's effort to sign him to a contract extension before he becomes a free agent in the fall. The two sides had begun negotiations in February, but those talks, by mandate from Major League Baseball, are now on hold because of the health crisis.

Could the freeze on negotiations and the uncertainty of whether or not there will be a 2020 season hurt the Phillies in their quest to keep Realmuto off the free-agent market?

"Whenever we resume playing, we'll see what the circumstances are and re-engage," Klentak said. "Nobody can predict what the parameters will be at that point or what will happen, but I think everyone knows we love J.T. and he's a player we'd love to have for the long haul."

Thursday would have been the Phillies' home opener. They had been scheduled to play their first seven games on the road before MLB suspended action on March 12 and encouraged players to head home. Training facilities have subsequently been closed except to a handful of players who are rehabilitating from injuries. 

MLB still hopes to have a season in some form, but nothing is certain. Like the rest of the world, it is at the mercy of the virus.

"I don't have enough information to know what's going to happen and I'm not sure anyone does," Klentak said. "What I am confident about is owners, players, front offices, fans, media, everybody is aligned in wanting to play baseball as quickly as we can. When all parties are as aligned as that, it gives me confidence that we'll get back as soon as we can get back. But I'm not in a position to make any predictions as to when that might happen.

"We'll do the best we can in the interim to prepare for the season. If it's a traditional season, we'll be prepared. If it's a modified season, we'll be prepared. I have a lot of confidence in league operations."

A resumed spring training would be required before any type of regular season, but Klentak would not speculate on what that might look like.

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Layoffs? Pay cuts? Phillies hope to avoid measures like that with full-time staff

Layoffs? Pay cuts? Phillies hope to avoid measures like that with full-time staff

The suspension of the Major League Baseball season due to the coronavirus health crisis has already hurt the revenues of all teams and will continue to do so as long as the game is shut down.

This has some people who work for teams all over baseball concerned about their jobs. 

Every MLB team, according to sources, has informed its full-time employees that business will run as usual through the end of April at which point teams will assess their respective situations.

Phillies general manager Matt Klentak on Thursday was asked about the potential for layoffs or salary cuts within the organization.

"That's a situation that is not unique to baseball, unfortunately," Klentak said. "A lot of decisions will be made above my pay grade, obviously. For all of us, we are hopeful that we'll resume and not have to take measures like that. We trust that the Phillies are owned and run by very good people — and have been for a long time. Everybody is trying to do the best thing right now."

Layoffs and salary cuts were a big issue during the work stoppage in 1994-95. Some teams did cut full-time staff and pay. The Phillies did not.

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