Bryce Harper takes his walks, faces unique shift, jokes about Gabe Kapler in Phillies spring training debut


CLEARWATER, Fla. — Bryce Harper's first game as a Phillie provided a glimpse into how potent the heart of this batting order can be. 

Using the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air theme song as his walk-up music Saturday, Harper walked in each of his two plate appearances, taking one big cut each time. One was a 95 mph fastball he swung through, the other was a foul crack to the left side.

Jean Segura was picked off while Harper was batting in the first inning, and the Blue Jays deployed a unique defensive shift once the bases were empty.

Both times, with nobody on, the Blue Jays used four outfielders against Harper, with three infielders on the right side and nobody on the left side. 

It was the first time Harper had ever seen such a shift.

"I got back to the dugout and talked to Larry Bowa about that," Harper said. "I said, 'Have you ever seen that, Larry?' He said nope. 

"Yeah, first time I've ever seen that. It's intense."

Harper didn't have to wait long to round the bases after his first walk. Rhys Hoskins followed with a titanic blast to left field that cleared the tiki bar. Harper had a good vantage point and will enjoy the protection he'll have in this deep Phillies lineup.

"Rhys is a special player," Harper said. "Love to see him jump on that first pitch, go deep and make it 2-0. That's gonna help relax our pitchers and help them get deep in the game and win us ballgames. One through nine, we have a great lineup. Rhys hitting behind me, I'm excited about it."

"He said get used to that," Hoskins later added. "Which obviously is funny, a cool moment. Hopefully, the first of many."

Harper was removed for pinch-runner Adam Haseley after his second walk. The tentative plan, according to manager Gabe Kapler, is for the Phillies to play Harper in right field on Monday in Clearwater against the Rays. Expect him to get two or three plate appearances in that game.

"We'll see how I feel [Sunday], I probably won't play," he said. "Then get in next week and see what I feel like. Just talk to Gabe, sit down with him and really solidify a plan of what we're gonna do and maintain that."

Harper saw a lot of Kapler last season from the opposing dugout. His experience was similar to the experience many Phillies fans had, watching Kapler tinker and do whatever it took to gain marginal advantages, especially toward the end of the season.

"When we faced him last year in September and they had like 45 guys or whatever they had in the clubhouse, switch this guy, switch that guy and our game was like 5½ hours so it was kind of tough to be able to go, 'Oh yeah, I like this guy.' But no, he's great," Harper said. 

"Being able to talk to him, sit down with him, get to know him on a personal level, he really cares. He's genuine about what he does. He works hard. He's passionate and that's somebody you want at the helm. He's somebody that really works hard each and every day. 

"When he looks better than half your team, also, with a shirt off, it makes you want to work hard too. He's a great manager and I look forward to learning from him and picking his brain more here and there, just playing for him."

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