Phillies

A Phillies-Bryce Harper union could benefit from potential MLB rule changes

A Phillies-Bryce Harper union could benefit from potential MLB rule changes

CLEARWATER, Fla. – The Phillies remained in full-steam-ahead pursuit of Bryce Harper on Sunday and they seem to be the favorite to land him. It is not clear which teams the Phillies might be competing with as this drama reaches an apex, but there are reports of other clubs still being in the mix.

There is a feeling around baseball that the Harper derby could reach the finish line sometime this week. Opening day arrives a month from Thursday and Harper and his agent, Scott Boras, are both smart enough to realize that the player will need to get into camp to get the necessary at-bats to be ready for the start of the season. Teams that have been chasing Harper are also ready for this thing to be over.

Throughout the offseason, Boras has been looking for a record-setting deal for his client. That probably means something more than the $325 million guarantee that Giancarlo Stanton got from the Miami Marlins in his 2014 contract extension.

It is not clear how high the Phillies will go in their bidding for Harper, but they are well aware of his goals. Managing partner John Middleton spent Friday night and part of Saturday meeting with Harper and Boras in the player’s hometown of Las Vegas. It has likely reached the point where the Phillies will make their best play for Harper or look to play with the team they have already assembled.

If the Phillies land Harper, they will have succeeded in putting together a deep lineup that should score runs. The lineup had already gotten better with the addition of Jean Segura and J.T. Realmuto and Harper in the middle would add some serious thunder. He would come to town with 184 career homers. Only 11 players in the history of the game had more than that through their age-25 season. Harper turned 26 in October.

You’ve probably already doodled some potential Phillies lineups with Harper in it.

Here’s one to ponder:

2B Cesar Hernandez
SS Jean Segura
RF Bryce Harper
1B Rhys Hoskins
C J.T. Realmuto
LF Andrew McCutchen
3B Maikel Franco
CF Odubel Herrera

Other possible lineups will emerge as the spring goes on and some could include Roman Quinn in center field. Whatever the case, if Harper is here, he will bat in a spotlight place and play right field.

For now.

It’s no secret that Major League Baseball is considering a number of rule changes that could be implemented in coming seasons. 

Some of these rule changes would seem to benefit Harper and the Phillies if a marriage occurs.

Harper would come to Philadelphia on a long-term deal. Adding the designated hitter to the National League could help preserve his body and keep him productive late in the deal.

There is also talk of reducing, or eliminating altogether, infield shifts. (Ryan Howard votes yes.) According to Sports Illustrated, over the past three seasons, shifts tripled against Harper and cost him 51 points off his batting average on balls in play up the middle or pulled.

There is also talk that, to speed up the game, baseball will require a reliever to face at least three batters. Put enough right-handed sticks around Harper and the Phils could make opposing managers think twice about bringing in a lefty specialist against Harper.

Adding the DH and a three-batter minimum for relievers would further marginalize a manager’s impact on games, but it might help a Phillies team that includes Harper.

This is all stuff to think about down the road.

Right now, the Phillies are still trying to land Harper and it sure feels like this thing could reach the finish line one way or another this week.

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Dodgers 7, Phillies 2: Phillies wait out 3 hours of rain only to finish with 2 hits in lifeless loss to Dodgers

Dodgers 7, Phillies 2: Phillies wait out 3 hours of rain only to finish with 2 hits in lifeless loss to Dodgers

BOX SCORE

The Phillies and Dodgers waited out a rain delay of 2 hours and 37 minutes before finally resuming the top of the third inning Wednesday night.

And after the long, long, long wait ... the Phillies lost 7-2.

There wasn't much Phillies offense to speak of. They had two hits, one in the ninth inning. It probably should not have been a surprise that they couldn't muster more offense given their lineup. It was their least impressive batting order of the season, with Brad Miller, Adam Haseley, Nick Williams and Andrew Knapp occupying spots 5 through 8. Still ... two hits.

"Rain delays are always tough," said Scott Kingery, who had the Phillies' lone hit until the ninth. "Once you start the game, adrenaline's going and then you come back in here and sit around for a few hours. You've got to do the best you can to get it going again, get your body moving. ... Just a tough night."

David Freese had the key blow for the Dodgers, a two-run, opposite-field homer off Juan Nicasio in the seventh. It came two innings after a fan yelled "Freese, you look like my Uber driver," which was kind of funny. 

The Phillies had just tied the game the previous half-inning on a bases-loaded walk by Miller and an RBI groundout from Haseley. Both runs were unearned as the Phillies benefitted from Max Muncy's shaky defense at third base.

Justin Turner doubled the Dodgers' lead with a pinch-hit two-run home run off Austin Davis in the eighth.

Nick Pivetta started the game and allowed a first-inning run after walking the bases loaded. Control issues for Phillies pitchers didn't end there — they walked 10 Dodgers and hit two more on the night.

The Phillies (49-47) don't have much time to rest. Thursday's series finale — on YouTube only — begins at 12:35 p.m.

"I don't even think we have time to be disappointed," manager Gabe Kapler said. "We have to be back here pretty early in the morning with (Aaron) Nola on the mound and a rested bullpen in terms of our guys that we're leaning on in leverage innings.

"We feel good about tomorrow. Anxious to get back to the ballpark and wipe off tonight."

Can't find the zone

Reliever Edgar Garcia, who continues to struggle, has thrown a frustratingly low number of strikes lately. On Monday, he entered the game with the Phillies down by 11 runs and walked three batters. If ever there is a time to go right at hitters, it is then. 

On Wednesday, 15 of his 29 pitches were balls and he fell behind reliever Julio Urias before allowing an RBI single up the middle to him in the sixth inning.

Garcia is one of three Phillies relievers who probably shouldn't be in the major leagues right now but is here out of necessity. Outings like this do not inspire confidence. It wouldn't be surprising if the Phillies sent him down Thursday or Friday to bring up a fresh arm.

Garcia has a 6.15 ERA and 1.71 WHIP in 27 appearances.

Segura returns

Jean Segura popped out as a pinch-hitter Wednesday night. He will be in Thursday's lineup after missing much of the last two games with a bruised heel.

Not a strong showing from Williams

In his first game back with the Phillies, Williams looked out of sorts at the plate, grounding out softly twice and expanding the zone multiple times in a strikeout against right-handed reliever Pedro Baez.

Williams had hit .345 at Triple A but just has not gotten going at the big-league level this season. He'll have an opportunity to play over the next few weeks with Jay Bruce on the injured list with a strained oblique.

Williams is behind Haseley on the outfield depth chart, though.

Up next

The four-game series concludes Thursday afternoon at 12:35, and then the Phillies hit the road for three games this weekend in Pittsburgh. They're off Monday, then play in two in Detroit before coming back to Philly for an eight-game homestand against the Braves, Giants and White Sox. 

Aaron Nola (8-2, 3.63) opposes Ross Stripling (4-3, 3.65) on Thursday.

Two young Phillies fans show their brotherly love at Citizens Bank Park

Two young Phillies fans show their brotherly love at Citizens Bank Park

A surprisingly large number of Phillies fans stuck around Wednesday night after a rain delay of 2 hours, 37 minutes.

The top of the fifth provided a nice moment in the stands, as one fan gave a foul ball to another and they hugged.

Chivalry isn't dead, even after a few frustrating nights against the Dodgers, oppressively hot conditions and hours of waiting around for the game to resume.

Be sure to watch the video above for a heartwarming moment.

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