Phillies

Let us not forget: Bryce Harper loves him some J.T. Realmuto

Let us not forget: Bryce Harper loves him some J.T. Realmuto

Let us not forget: Bryce Harper loves him some J.T. Realmuto.

Harper badly wanted his Nationals to acquire Realmuto last season, but Washington was so disappointing that instead of buying ahead of the trade deadline, it sold.

After a game on July 29 in which Realmuto delivered the game-winning RBI single, Harper had something pretty interesting to say:

"If that guy was on our side, it wouldn't have happened," Harper said of Realmuto.

Not a comment you often hear a player make about a competitor.

Weeks before that, at the All-Star Game, Harper playfully put a Nationals cap on Realmuto's head. 

It's not nothing ...

Harper isn't going to base his decision on where Realmuto is playing in 2019. But if the Phillies make or have already made the best offer to Harper, Realmuto is quite the sweetener. 

The Phillies, with Realmuto, look like a team capable of winning 84 to 88 games. That should make them more appealing to both Harper and Manny Machado. It should show both stars that this roster is capable of pushing for a playoff spot even without them and that their presence would put the Phils over the top.

The Phillies can offer more than just the most money now.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Phillies

Phillies pitcher Nick Pivetta could cause some (good) problems this year

Phillies pitcher Nick Pivetta could cause some (good) problems this year

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Ask anyone in the Phillies organization which player is most poised for a big leap forward this season and the name Nick Pivetta leaps off the tongue like a 98-mph fastball.

“I would be inclined to believe that also,” a veteran scout from another club said after watching Pivetta strike out eight Detroit Tigers in five innings on Wednesday.

“Both of his breaking balls are good and the fastball had lots of hop today. He used his curveball to finish guys. It was fun to watch. I hadn’t seen him in a while. He’s gotten better. He’s going to cause some problems for teams.”

Pivetta, who turned 26 last month, was acquired from Washington for Jonathan Papelbon in a rebuild trade in July 2015. He has made 58 starts and pitched 297 innings for the Phils the last two years. Though he went 7-14 with a 4.77 ERA last year, he finished fifth in the NL with 10.32 strikeouts per nine innings. The Phillies’ analytics department has collected other statistical evidence that suggests the right-hander is ready for a breakout season. For instance, he had a FIP (fielding-independent pitching) of 3.75 last season. That ranked 24th among big-league starters.

So, what does Pivetta think of the widely held belief that his talent and experience are ready to come together and produce something special?

“I think with me, it’s about ignoring the white noise,” he said. “I still have a job to do and a long ways to go.”

He did acknowledge that, “I feel like I’ve grown as a pitcher. I’m just working on doing it over and over again.”

Pivetta did not have his crispest fastball of the spring Wednesday and he still touched 98 mph. He averaged 94-95 mph. He allowed a solo homer on a hanging slider to Josh Harrison, but threw a number of other excellent breaking balls.

“There were a couple of notable at-bats where he was pretty much untouchable,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “His ceiling is really, really high and, obviously, the stuff is on par with anybody in the league. As we sat and watched the game today, one of the things we kept saying was, ‘That’s A-plus, elite stuff.’ We’ve known that for some time and he is starting to harness it a little bit.”

Kapler mentioned the importance of focus and concentration in Pivetta’s bid to take his game to another level.

“And if he gets to that level of focus for six or seven innings, we have as good a starter as any in the league,” Kapler said.

The manager then confirmed his confidence in Pivetta by announcing that he will slot the pitcher second in the rotation behind Aaron Nola.

So it will be Nola, Pivetta and Jake Arrieta in the season-opening series against the Braves.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Phillies

No Mike Trout envy for Bryce Harper: 'I got more money than I'll know what to do with'

No Mike Trout envy for Bryce Harper: 'I got more money than I'll know what to do with'

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Bryce Harper’s reign as king of baseball salaries lasted less than three weeks.

And he’s OK with that.

“I got more money than I’ll know what to do with,” Harper said Wednesday, 24 hours after being displaced by Mike Trout as the game’s highest-paid player.

“I got the length I wanted, I got the contract I wanted, I got the team that I wanted and the ownership that trusted in me. Once I knew Trout was going to sign, it's inevitable that he was going to be the highest-paid player in the game and all of sports. I'm very happy for him.

“He’s very deserving.”

Trout topped Harper’s $330 million payday when he agreed to a $360 million extension with the Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday.

“I texted him when the news broke,” Harper said. “I told him, ‘So excited for you and Jess.’ I’m very excited for what’s to come for him and his contract and his career.”

After signing a 13-year deal with the Phillies earlier this month, Harper openly fantasized about one day playing with Trout in Philadelphia. Trout, of course, hails from South Jersey. He grew up rooting for the Phillies and still roots passionately for the Eagles. Trout would have been eligible for free agency after the 2020 season. Now, he’s under contract with Anaheim through 2030.

Maybe they can play together in 2031.

Harper laughed.

“The Angels made a great decision of making him the face of their franchise for a long period of time,” he said.

Over the last month, a handful of stars have signed mega deals. Nolan Arenado landed a $260 million extension with Colorado. Manny Machado got $300 million from the Padres and Harper and Trout both cleared the $300 million mark. 

Every deal pushes the bar a little higher.

“When I talked to [Trout] this offseason it was kind of, 'Man, I want to get as much as I can so that you can blow me out of the water pretty much,'" Harper said. “And he did. I was very excited for him. I'm excited for Mookie [Betts] to see what he gets when he goes about [free agency]. Aaron Judge, as well. And, you know, for the players, I think it's huge for us.”

Harper started in right field for the Phillies in Wednesday’s 3-1 loss to the Tigers. He had his first Grapefruit League base hit, struck out once and walked once.

Harper will play in right field again on Thursday against the Blue Jays in Clearwater. The tentative plan is for him to sit out Friday night’s game then play in the final three games in Florida, at Bradenton against the Pirates on Saturday and in Clearwater on Sunday and Monday.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Phillies