Philadelphia Phillies star Bryce Harper begins rehabilitation assignment with two home runs

ALLENTOWN, Pa. – With two big swings, Bryce Harper appeared poised to join the Phillies in a pennant race.

Harper targeted right midfield in his first at-bat and then went to opposite field for a three-run shot in the eighth inning Tuesday night for Philadelphia’s Triple-A team to begin his rehabilitation assignment after a broken left thumb.

Harper was the designated hitter and batted second in lineup for the Lehigh Valley IronPigs to start a six-game streak against Gwinnett. He drilled the fifth spot he saw Atlanta Braves prospect Jared Shuster high over the wall at Coca-Cola Park in front of what was announced a sold-out crowd of 10,100 fans.

“I think every time you go out there and you’re able to put the bat on the ball and have good bats, see pitches, compete at a high level, it’s always good,” Harper said.

He went against Shuster in his second punch, to the boos of the crowd, who wanted Harper to make another powerful hack. Harper was then caught stealing. He landed on his third plate appearance and walked again, scoring in the seventh to lead Lehigh Valley past Gwinnett 10-5.

Gwinnett had some fun after Harper’s solo homer cut the Stripers’ lead, tweeting, “Phillies prospect Bryce Harper goes deep to cut the Stripers’ lead 3-1. Admittedly, he looks like one to watch in the future.”

And before Harper took the lead for the fifth time, the scoreboard said, “Today 1-2 Bryce Bomb.” Make it two.

Harper, who won his second NL MVP award last year, has not played for the Phillies since breaking his left thumb on June 25. He’s expected to play in Lehigh Valley through Saturday and potentially return to the Philadelphia lineup Monday as playoff contenders Phillies begin a series in Arizona.

But with two home runs in his first rehab game, why wait until Monday to add him to a team that needs him badly now?

“Tonight was great, wasn’t it? But at the same time I need the bats, I need to be able to see pitches, different guys, different angles, understand how my body is going to react, what my thumb is going to be like,” Harper said.

The 29-year-old Harper, who signed a 13-year, $330 million contract with the Phillies in 2019, hits .318 with 15 home runs, 48 ​​RBIs and .985 OPS. Harper resigned from right field earlier this season due to a small tear in the ulnar collateral ligament of his throwing arm. He last played on the field on April 16 in Miami.

When asked if he could play right field in September, Harper simply said “no.”

The Phillies overcame the Cincinnati Reds 7-6 on Tuesday night and stayed in the middle of the NL wildcard race. After the win, Phillies interim manager Rob Thomson said staff will speak to Harper about his return date and didn’t rule out Friday as a possibility.

“Bring him up. He doesn’t need any more games,” Philadelphia second baseman Jean Segura said after the win. “What is he doing down there? He is ready. Hope he comes back soon.

Harper was a smashing success for fans who turned up at the season’s highest number to catch a glimpse of one of baseball’s most popular players.

The IronPigs merchandise store and ticketing phone lines have been buzzing for the last two days in anticipation of his arrival. will he play Will shirts be on sale? When do the gates open? A cashier looked out of the team storefront and remarked, “I’ve never seen at 5:12 a.m. there were just hundreds of people standing out there.”

Director of merchandise Mike Luciano faced an early backlog when Harper decided to change his uniform number for his minor league stint. Although Harper was an attraction, he didn’t want to serve as a distraction for the IronPigs and allowed reliever Jonathan Hennigan to keep his No. 3 while the batter brought one to No. 4.

“I ordered a lot of 3s,” Luciano said. “Luckily the 4s came in.”

Harper t-shirts really were hot off the press. About 90 minutes before the first field, about 150 Harper shirts were still as warm as a ballpark hot dog when they were quickly wheeled from the printed to the vendor stands. The blue No. 4 jerseys retailed for US$28, and a limited run of custom jerseys retailed for US$110. Sales sizzled at a better rate than the usual top sellers, which Luciano says would be “anything with bacon.”

“You stick a strip of bacon on a hat, people love it,” Luciano said.

Chris Philpott from Allentown bought two playing cards that morning and snagged a Harper T-shirt at the store. He typically attends about 12 IronPigs games a year and only had to secure seats for Tuesday nights.

“I came here early because my kid was hoping to catch him with BP,” he said. “We saw all the cameras when we came in. It’s going to be crazy tonight. You don’t usually see people lining up when there isn’t a giveaway this early in the game.”

Harper skipped the batting on the field, but that didn’t stop fans from hanging over the railings near the IronPigs’ dugouts in hopes of catching a glimpse of the two-time NL MVP. TV stations broadcast live remote controls and the press box was packed with media normally reserved for Phillies coverage, playing at home on the Turnpike in Citizens Bank Park.

Two hours before the gates opened, only 80 tickets remained, most on the right field line. The stadium — historically home to similar warm-up stints for Pedro Martinez and Chase Utley — was packed on a night that went to the dogs. Yes, in a nod to a night dedicated to the region’s canine adoption efforts, Harper skipped the bacon-themed gear for an IronMutts jersey.

Oh, and 195 dogs wagged their tails at the ballpark — 44 were adopted, and a few mutts can probably thank Harper’s cameo for their new home.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Philadelphia Phillies star Bryce Harper begins rehabilitation assignment with two home runs

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