Larry Bowa is expecting big things from Bryce Harper this season.
“He’s in great shape,” Bowa said. “I don’t like to put numbers on guys, but it would not shock me if he hit between 40 and 50 home runs this season.
“I’ve never seen bat speed like this. I call him “The Freak.” He has a chance to do some serious damage this year, barring injury. The ball just comes off his bat so different than anyone else. It’s a loud sound right now.”
Bowa is in his 56th year of professional baseball and 37th with the Phillies as a player, coach, manager and front office man. He is currently a senior adviser to the general manager. He spends his springs working with infielders in Clearwater and doesn’t miss a thing that goes on in camp.
Three weeks into spring training, with the Phillies enjoying an off day Monday, Bowa offered his observations on camp in our latest episode of the Phillies Talk podcast.
“I like the vibe of this team,” he said. “I know it’s a tough division, but I’m looking forward to this team doing something special. If injuries are minimal, this should be a playoff team, without a doubt.
“I haven’t seen this sense of urgency the last four or five years.”
In addition to Harper’s bat speed, Bowa loves the hiring of Dave Dombrowski as president of baseball operations.
“His presence is felt all over the complex,” Bowa said. “He’s on top of everything.
“The first time he called me this winter, he never used the word 'retooling' or 'rebuilding' one time. He said, ‘I want to win.’ And he’s known for putting together winning clubs right away.”
The Phillies have not had a winning season since 2011. Their nine-year playoff drought is the longest in the National League.
There are several reasons that Bowa believes the Phils can make a run at the playoffs.
He thinks the team will score runs. The Phils ranked fifth in the majors with 5.1 runs per game last season.
He likes the top three in the starting pitching rotation.
He believes the bullpen, a fatal flaw in 2020, will be much better.
“Dave did a tremendous job bringing in some power arms that can strike out people,” Bowa said.
Phillies starting pitchers had a 49.1 percent ground ball rate last season, second-best in the majors. It will be imperative that the Phils play strong infield defense behind the staff.
“I believe in this defense,” he said. “The naked eye tells me we’re better than the numbers.”
Bowa offered an idea that might help the team’s pitchers and infielders: Grow the infield grass at Citizens Bank Park a little longer. He said it was something the Chicago Cubs did when he and Ron Cey manned the left side of the infield at Wrigley Field late in their careers.
“We have ground ball pitchers,” he said. “Why not tailor the field to satisfy the pitchers we have and help our infielders. It’s your home field. Do what you have to do to win a ball game.”
Bowa touched on many more topics during the podcast. He said he’s spoken to Odubel Herrera several times and believes the outfielder knows “he messed up” and has matured. Bowa mentioned the protocols players are subject to because of COVID-19 and listed several young players who have caught his eye in camp.
Talkin’ ball with Larry Bowa. It’s always a lot of fun and it’s all right here on the latest Phillies Talk podcast. Give it a listen.