Bryce Harper made a positive impression in his first career start at first base, but the two-time National League MVP will be back as a designated hitter when the visiting Philadelphia Phillies continue their three-game series against the Cleveland Guardians on Saturday
Harper offered to learn a new position after returning from Tommy John surgery in early May. The Phillies expect him to return to right field eventually, but Harper could fill a valuable role at first base in the meantime
“We’ve prepared him, and now, it’s just about getting used to game speed and getting used to those situations,” Philadelphia manager Rob Thomson said.
The Phillies lost the series opener 6-5, but Harper made several impressive plays at first. Thomson said the plan is to have Harper play first base every other game
“I feel very comfortable,” Harper said. “We’ve been working for a couple months now, and I feel normal going out there playing and slowing it down as best as possible and just playing good baseball.”
The Phillies have lost three straight following a four-game winning streak, while Cleveland has won three of its past four
The Guardians received a spark on Friday from utilityman David Fry, who made his third career start at catcher and had two hits and two RBIs
Fry is batting .356 (16-for-45) over his past 22 games and could be making a case for more playing time at catcher.
“He’s earned the at-bats he’s getting,” Cleveland manager Terry Francona said. “I don’t know how much we would catch him, but I don’t see a reason not to.”
Right-hander Tanner Bibee (5-2, 3.32 ERA) is set to take the mound for Cleveland. He received a no-decision after giving up two runs over six innings against the Texas Rangers last Sunday.
Bibee, 24, has allowed a total of three runs over his past three starts covering 16 2/3 innings after posting a 5.04 ERA in five outings last month.
He is set to make his 15th career start and first versus Philadelphia.
Philadelphia will counter with right-hander Zack Wheeler (7-4, 4.04), who allowed three runs in seven innings with seven strikeouts and no walks in a no-decision against the San Diego Padres last Sunday.
Wheeler, 33, has allowed a total of five home runs in his past four starts after giving up five in his previous 15.
Josh Bell is 8-for-31 with two homers against Wheeler, who is making his first start versus Cleveland since Sept. 6, 2013, when he allowed three runs (two earned) over five innings as a member of the New York Mets.
Wheeler may want to exercise caution when pitching to Guardians first baseman Josh Naylor, who had two hits on Friday and is batting .395 (64-for-162) over his past 40 games
“It’s fun (to watch Naylor), especially when I have the opportunity to be on deck,” Cleveland second baseman Andres Gimenez said. “Watching him every night just crush balls, I’m happy for him for the year that he’s having.”
The Guardians also have relied on Bell, who doubled in a run in Friday’s victory and is batting .413 (12-for-29) over his past nine games
–Field Level Media
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