Harper starts in CF for first time since 2018

September 7th, 2020

Bryce Harper is not a huge fan of center field, but he started there on Monday for the first time since 2018 because the Phillies are short on outfielders and not ready to play Adam Haseley every day against left-handed pitching.

The Mets started left-hander David Peterson in a 9-8 Phillies win in 10 innings at Citi Field. Peterson lasted only two innings on the mound. Harper lasted only five in center, returning to right after Kyle Garlick misplayed a ball in the fifth, allowing a run to score. Haseley replaced Garlick and played center.

“Adam is probably the player that shows his hand the least of any player that we have, whether he’s excited or disappointed,” manager Joe Girardi said. “It was just something we did. I talked to him today. I said, ‘Look, I’m going to flip it fairly quickly if we get a lead, and I’m going to put you in center.' So he understands that. There’s going to be plenty of playing time for him.”

Girardi stold Harper on Sunday that he planned to start him in center. It was a short-term thing, which is good news for Harper, who prefers right field.

“I feel like if I can stay out of center field, that'd be great,” Harper said in March 2019.

Harper played 63 games in center field with the Nationals in 2018, and 184 games in his career overall. But he thought the position took a toll on him in the long-term.

But desperate times called for desperate measures. The Phillies placed outfielders Jay Bruce and Roman Quinn on the injured list on Sunday, which was a blow to their outfield depth. Bruce is on the 10-day IL with a left quadriceps strain, and Quinn is on the seven-day concussion IL. The only true outfielders remaining on the 28-man roster are Harper, Haseley, Garlick and Andrew McCutchen. Phil Gosselin and Neil Walker can play outfield, but they are true infielders.

There are no other outfielders on the 40-man roster. Mikie Mahtook, Nick Martini and Mickey Moniak are in the 60-man player pool in Allentown, Pa. Odúbel Herrera is the best outfielder in the Phillies’ system not on the 40-man; he was removed in January following his arrest and charge of simple assault of his girlfriend in May 2019. The charges were dropped, but Herrera was designated for assignment and ultimately outrighted to Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

Haseley has faced left-handed pitching only three times this season and 57 times last season, compared with 220 plate appearances against righties. Haseley’s career splits against righties (.283/.346/.434) vs. lefties (.200/.267/.236) indicate why Girardi played Harper in center. Ideally, of course, the Phillies plug Haseley in center and keep Harper in right until Scott Kingery and/or Quinn return from the injured list.

Kingery can be activated as early as Thursday.