Bryce Harper never stopped working out after baseball shut down. He hit three times a week back home in Las Vegas.
So it really wasn't surprising to see Harper launching balls into the empty seats at Citizens Bank Park on the first official day of the Phillies' restart Friday.
And it wasn't surprising to see him wearing his new favorite T-shirt, the one with teammate J.T. Realmuto's name and number 10 on the back.
The shirt was a giveaway last August and giveaways are always plentiful in the clubhouse. Harper wore one under his uniform a number of times late last season and is rocking it again during preparation for the new season. He has worn it three days in a row during workouts at Citizens Bank Park.
Harper is pretty shrewd when it comes to messaging. Look at the way he instantly connected with Philadelphia by embracing civic icons like the Eagles and the Phanatic last year.
Is there a message in his donning the Realmuto shirt three days in a row — with cameras catching it all? After all, Realmuto could become a free agent after the season and Harper, who's here for another dozen years, has long been on record as saying he'd like to see the Phillies lock up the catcher with a long-term deal.
"No message," Harper said after Friday's workout. "But I think J.T. is a great player.
"If the Phillies don't end up signing him back, which would be terrible and sad, I think there's a lot of other teams out there that are going to want to sign the guy. He's a Gold Glove-caliber catcher every year, he's a great person, a great player. I mean everybody in this organization from the top down wants to see him in red pinstripes for the rest of his career and hopefully we can make that happen."
The Phillies and Realmuto were in the midst of negotiations when the game shut down in March. The two sides are now permitted to talk again, but general manager Matt Klentak has said the landscape is different because no games and no fans have equaled no revenues for the last three months. Klentak still hopes to get something done with Realmuto, maybe even by the season opener later this month. But the player is now a lot closer to free agency than he would have been in March and free agency can be enticing to a player. To be determined is whether the reduction in revenues throughout the game and the uncertainty created by the COVID-19 pandemic will hurt the market for free agents this winter.
Message or not, Harper will continue to wear his Realmuto jersey. It's not hard to spot. It's white with maroon lettering. Pretty much everyone else on the field Friday wore red.
"I wore that underneath my jersey last year," Harper said. "It was actually a cut-off version. I wore it pretty much the whole second half of the season. It was T-shirt day at the ballpark and I wanted one. I stole one for this year as well because it was very comfortable underneath my jersey and I think it gave me a little bit of good luck."
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