spring training

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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Clearwater chronicles: Rhys Hoskins hurting, Andrew McCutchen to lead off

Clearwater chronicles: Rhys Hoskins hurting, Andrew McCutchen to lead off

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Lots of newsy notes from Phillies camp this morning.

Let’s get to it:

• Rhys Hoskins has a sore left shoulder. Manager Gabe Kapler said it was nothing serious. Hoskins was not in the lineup Wednesday, but he did participate in fielding drills. He is expected to play over the weekend and be ready for opening day.

Hoskins said he tweaked the shoulder taking an awkward swing on Sunday. He was confident the issue would clear up quickly. An MRI revealed no structural damage.

“There are no concerns about him starting the season,” Kapler said. “We’ll give him a couple of days to let things calm down. We have him penciled into the last couple of spring training games.”

The Phillies play their last two games in Florida on Sunday and Monday in Clearwater. Opening day in March 28.

• Kapler revealed that Andrew McCutchen will open the season as the team’s leadoff man. Cesar Hernandez, who led off extensively last season, will likely hit sixth or seventh, Kapler said.

McCutchen has 1,282 plate appearances as a leadoff man in his career. His on-base percentage in that spot is .367. McCutchen has hit most in the No. 3 spot — 3,861 plate appearances.

“I talked to both guys,” Kapler said. “The likelihood is we’re going to start the season with McCutchen at the top of the lineup. I love his profile up there. I love his ability to see pitches. I love his history of on-base.”

Using McCutchen in the leadoff spot also gives Kapler some matchup flexibility in the middle of the lineup as he doesn’t have to hit Hoskins, J.T. Realmuto and McCutchen (all right-handed hitters) in consecutive spots.

“I like the idea of Odubel (Herrera) and Cesar in the middle to give us a little mix and match," Kapler said.

Kapler juggled his lineup often last season. He hopes to avoid that this season.

“One of the things I’m committed to going forward is trying to create some consistency for these guys, especially because they have the capability to really flourish in these lineups spots,” Kapler said.

Hernandez is OK with batting in the middle of the order.

“He’d like to settle in to one spot and I want to respect that,” Kapler said. “I’m not saying it will always happen, but I will do everything I can to respect that. He’s a veteran player and we’ll do whatever we can to make him comfortable.”

• The Phillies do not have a pure backup first baseman for Hoskins. In the event Hoskins needed relief, Maikel Franco would move over from third base and Scott Kingery would fill that spot. Franco will get some reps at first base Friday night against the Yankees in Tampa.

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Bryce Harper leaves spring training game early with right foot contusion

Bryce Harper leaves spring training game early with right foot contusion

Updated: 4:01 p.m. 

Bryce Harper left the Phillies’ Grapefruit League game against the Blue Jays on Friday afternoon in Clearwater, Florida, walking gingerly off the field after getting hit with a pitch on the right foot. After the Phillies' 3-2 win, manager Gabe Kapler told reporters in Clearwater that Harper has a right foot contusion.

"It was certainly extra scary given where we are in camp, but we’re confident," Kapler said. "We understand that we have a good club on the field. And we’re confident Bryce is going to be alright."

In the bottom of the sixth inning, Harper was struck on the foot on a 1-1 pitch by Trent Thornton, a 96 mph fastball. Kapler immediately came out to check on Harper, who shouted a few words at Thornton after rising to his feet, presumably in frustration.

Thornton said the pitch slipped and that he was "amped up" to face Harper, per Rogers Sportsnet's Arash Madani.

Harper was 0 for 2 with a strikeout on the afternoon before the hit by pitch. He left the dugout later in the inning and walked to the clubhouse, accompanied by a Phillies trainer.

Harper is now 0 for 5 with three walks and two strikeouts in spring training play. He’s said he typically needs 40 to 50 plate appearances to feel ready for the regular season. With opening day on March 28, he might not end up getting that many plate appearances, although health will obviously be priority No. 1.

"I think it’s a little premature to speculate on lost at-bats or anything like that," Kapler said. "I think, first and foremost, we probably have to get inside and meet with our medical team and discuss. But, again, not overly concerned right now."

The Phillies had planned for Harper to play right field on Saturday vs. the Astros and to DH on Sunday vs. the Yankees. You’d assume that plan might change, as the Phillies have every reason to exercise caution with the star they’ve signed to a 13-year, $330 million deal with a no-trade clause and no opt-outs. 

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