Phillies

Kale, Pilates and text messages from Tom Brady are all part of Bryce Harper's longevity plan

Kale, Pilates and text messages from Tom Brady are all part of Bryce Harper's longevity plan

CLEARWATER, Fla. – It’s a relationship between two of the biggest superstars in American sports.

One is still on top of his game at age 41.

The other wants to be on top of his game when he’s that age.

Bryce Harper and Tom Brady.

Yep.

They’re buddies.

Not buddies in the typical hang-out-and-have-a-cold-one kind of way. In truth, they’ve never met each other in person, nor have they ever actually spoken to each other.

But the two stars do communicate fairly regularly via text message. Harper sent a congratulatory text after Brady won his sixth Super Bowl with the New England Patriots in February. A month later, Brady reached out after Harper signed his $330-million deal with the Phillies.

The relationship between the two men started a couple of years ago when Harper reached out to Brady on Instagram.

“I love watching the NFL,” Harper said. “Seeing the type of person he is, the type of player and teammate he is, the type of work ethic he has -- I just wanted to get to know him.

“You see what he does on a daily basis, how he goes about it, his life on and off the field, how he takes care of his body, a family man like he is – he’s somebody I want to follow, somebody you look at and try to understand how he got to that point, how he keeps doing it, how he maintains it.”

Harper, 26, broke into the majors when he was 19 and wants to play – productively – into his 40s, like Brady has. Part of Harper’s motivation in initially reaching out to Brady was to pick up a few tips on that. Brady has been generous in sharing his wisdom with Harper. The two men communicate about exercise programs, diet and other keys to competitive success.

“He’s given me advice on conditioning and I try to incorporate that into my workouts,” Harper said. “The big thing is you have to find out what works for you. Pliability is huge for me. Pilates really works for me. Every Tuesday and Thursday, I’m in there with pregnant women doing Pilates with them.”

Harper has a copy of Brady’s cookbook, The TB12 Nutritional Manual, and uses many recipes from it.

“Eating right is huge,” Harper said. “He signed one of his cookbooks for me and I follow that. Dairy-free. Avocado ice cream.”

Huh? Dairy-free? Didn’t Harper recently reach out to Phillies fans on social media and ask where he could find the best ice cream in Philadelphia?

“Yeah, I cheat now and then,” he said with a laugh. “But I do try stay away from a lot of that stuff so my body doesn’t break down.”

Harper has his diet analyzed every offseason.

“I don’t eat quinoa because it’s a big inflammatory for me,” he said.

His personal superfood?

“Kale,” he said.

Yum.

Harper has only seen Brady in person one time; he was in the stands in Phoenix when Brady led the Patriots to victory in Super Bowl XLIX in February 2015.

“I’d love to meet him,” Harper said.

Hmm. The Phillies will be in Boston in August.

"I’ve already let him know that," Harper said.

If a meeting takes place, maybe these two buddies can hang out and have a cold one.

Uh, scratch that idea.

Harper doesn’t drink. Never has.

“My body is my temple,” he said. “Everyone talks about the money. But, for me, I wanted years, I wanted to play this game for a long time and build roots somewhere. For me, a 13-year deal was huge. I have to be able to prolong my career and prolong my body and that starts with what I do now.”

Tom Brady would offer a thumbs-up emoji to that.

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Tuesday night was the NL East in a nutshell

Tuesday night was the NL East in a nutshell

As has been the case much of the season, Tuesday night was not a good one for NL East bullpens. 

All five teams blew a save and three lost in walk-off fashion (Phillies, Braves, Nationals).

For the Mets, Nationals and Braves, it continued a season-long theme of unreliable late relief. The Mets and Nationals have had trouble bridging the gap between their starting pitchers and their elite closers, Edwin Diaz and Sean Doolittle. The setup work has been mostly terrible, with Jeurys Familia struggling in that role for New York and Kyle Barraclough and Wander Suero pitching ineffectively for Washington.

The Phillies, despite injuries to David Robertson, Tommy Hunter, Victor Arano and Edubray Ramos, have statistically one of the better bullpens in baseball. The Phils' bullpen has a 3.84 ERA, third-best in the National League and eighth-best in the majors.

The Nationals' bullpen has a 6.61 ERA, worst in MLB. The Marlins (5.13) rank 26th. The Braves (4.59) are 23rd. The Mets (4.41) are 20th.

Atlanta has not been able to figure out a closing formula. Arodys Vizcaino was the incumbent but he is out for the season with a shoulder injury and was traded to Seattle along with Jesse Biddle for veteran reliever Anthony Swarzak late last week. Luke Jackson had gotten the nod as the Braves' closer but has blown four saves after a strong start. The Braves seem likely to turn to left-hander and former starter Sean Newcomb in that role after several effective outings in relief.

The possibility of Craig Kimbrel also looms. At this point, it's a near lock that Kimbrel will not be signed before the June 3 draft because the signing team will want to avoid forfeiting an early pick for which they've been preparing. All four NL East contenders will be among the teams vying for Kimbrel's services, with the Braves and Phillies more likely to sign him than the Mets or Nats. A reunion in Atlanta just makes too much sense for all parties. (That's where my money would go.)

The Phils last night played with one hand tied behind their back as their top four relievers — Hector Neris, Pat Neshek, Adam Morgan and Seranthony Dominguez — were all unavailable (see story). They'll look for a better result tonight and won't need to turn to Juan Nicasio to protect a ninth-inning lead if they have one.

Neris has been a major reason the Phillies have been able to maintain their first-place standing in the NL East. In 20⅓ innings, he has a 1.77 ERA and 0.89 WHIP with 27 strikeouts and just six walks. 

Neris has made 40 appearances since he was called back up to the majors last Aug. 15. In those 40 appearances, he has a 1.89 ERA with 62 strikeouts in 38 innings. His opponents have hit just .170, going 23 for 135 with two home runs.

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The new Cole hopes to meet the old Cole, but 1st – a showdown in Wrigley Field

ap_cole_irvin_cole_hamels.jpg
AP Images

The new Cole hopes to meet the old Cole, but 1st – a showdown in Wrigley Field

CHICAGO — The second-most famous Cole in Phillies history will pitch against the most famous Cole in Phillies history Wednesday night in Wrigley Field.

For Cole Irvin, who will take the mound for the Phillies against Cole Hamels, it’s like winning the lottery.

“You know what’s funny is I’m actually looking forward to meeting him here,” Irvin said. “Back when I was in high school, he was a guy I modeled my changeup after, one of those guys that I really watched when I really started to get into pitching. I watched how he manipulated it, how he used it, how he sequenced it, how he used it in lanes and in what counts, if he needed a ground ball here or a fly ball there. I’d watch videos of him on YouTube. I’d study his grip and just how masterful he was with the pitch.”

Irvin, 25, is 10 years Hamels’ junior. He was drafted by the Phillies in July 2015, a month before the club traded Hamels to the Texas Rangers. The Phillies traded the former World Series MVP because they were in a rebuild. Now the rebuild is complete. The Phils are first-place club. Hamels has moved on to the Chicago Cubs, another first-place club. On Wednesday night, the two Coles, both lefties from Southern California, will face each other and it’s believed to be the first time two pitchers will that first name have done so.

Hamels has never pitched against the Phillies. They are the last team he has not faced. The Phillies have not seen him in person on a mound since July 25, 2015, the day he no-hit the Cubs in Wrigley Field in his last start with the Phillies.

It was a Hollywood ending for the guy the call Hollywood.

The Cubs traded for Hamels last summer and picked up his $20 million contract option this winter. He will be a free agent in the offseason. Hamels is off to a good start with the Cubs. He is 4-4 with a 3.13 ERA in nine starts.

Irvin is off to a good start in his big-league career. He made his big-league debut less than two weeks ago in Kansas City – 13 years to the day after Hamels’ big-league debut – and pitched seven shutout innings against the Royals. He came back with six strong innings in a win over Colorado on Friday.

The Phillies will ride Irvin as long as he’s successful and if that means Vince Velasquez, now healthy, can’t break back into the rotation, well, internal competition is a beautiful thing for a team. It sharpens everyone. Velasquez has long been viewed as a reliever in waiting. Maybe if the Phillies had an arm like that, one capable of pitching multiple innings in that fifth-through-seventh-inning range in close games, they’d have more weapons for the back end of games and be able to avoid debacles like the one that occurred Tuesday night in Wrigley Field.

Irvin is a cerebral pitcher. He is not a guy who lights up the radar gun. He moves the ball around, changes speeds, reads swings, throws strikes and relies on a deep repertoire of pitches, including the changeup he modeled after Hamels, the man he will oppose in Wrigley Field on Wednesday night. The Cubs have a powerful lineup and Wrigley Field can be an intimidating environment. But Irvin has a little familiarity with the place. He pitched there in the summer of 2011 in the Under Armour All-American game for high school players.

“I’m ready to go,” Irvin said.

And when it’s over, maybe before Thursday’s series finale, he’ll get the chance to meet Hamels.

First question?

“His spots to eat in Philly, for sure,” Irvin said with a laugh.

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