Harper (back soreness) could play as early as Friday

March 21st, 2024

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- is hitting and fielding again.

Both are encouraging signs with Opening Day only a week away. Harper has not played in a Grapefruit League game since March 14 because of soreness in his lower back. Thursday, however, represented his third consecutive day of baseball activities.

Harper is scheduled to get at-bats at Carpenter Complex on Friday and Saturday, although there is rain in the forecast on Friday. Harper could use the at-bats. He has had only 26 plate appearances this spring, which is 24th on the team.

“No matter what, I’m going to get at-bats on the back field,” Harper said about his readiness for Opening Day.

Harper also said he also expects to play first base before camp ends on Monday.

There has been concern about Harper because he has had back issues in the past, although he has never been placed on the injured list because of them. He said he thinks his current issue is unrelated because it is in a different spot. Last season, Harper experienced mid-back spasms in an Aug. 10 game against Washington. He left that game early, then missed the next day’s game before returning to action. Harper started 14 of the next 20 games at DH before returning to regular action at first base on Sept. 5.

Harper appeared frustrated following a round of BP on Wednesday. A few fans asked passersby if he might have hurt himself.

No, the back was fine. Harper was just unhappy with his swing.

“Just the swing,” Harper said. “We’ll get there, we’ll get there.”