'Ready to go': Harper arrives feeling strong

Phillies hope to allow limited fans at Citizens Bank Park

February 23rd, 2021

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Bryce Harper said his back is healthy, although he will take things more slowly this spring.

Harper played through a balky back in the final few weeks of last season, and it affected his play. He had a 1.147 OPS in 21 games before the back started to bother him on Aug. 21. He had an .860 OPS the rest of the way, which included Harper removing himself from a game in September. Harper said Tuesday morning that an MRI exam revealed no structural damage, but an issue with the QL (quadratus lumborum) muscle.

“When I talked to the doctor about it, he was kind of just like, you know, you have no herniation, your spine is great, your discs look amazing,” Harper said. “I had something going on with my QL attaching to my oblique area. So when I threw or when I hit or when I stretched it would pull, and then when I hit it would pull as well. So once we figured that out and kind of got the MRI done with it and got everything done, got everything flushed out of there, I was good. But all my discs, I have no herniation or anything like that.

“So this is something where, hopefully if I keep working out, do what I need to, keep staying on top of my program and things like that throughout the whole year, then it might maybe a little bit be sore, but it won't affect me like it would last year. So I don't think this is a long-term thing. Knock on wood.”

Harper knows that his style of play does not do him any favors, from the torque in his swing to slamming into walls and diving into bases. It is unlikely to change, so he needs to adjust elsewhere. He started to hit a month later than normal (from Jan. 1 to Feb. 1) and he is probably not going to play in the first week of Grapefruit League games.

Harper said he is not trying to be the Clearwater MVP.

“I probably shouldn't be stealing bags in Spring Training, you know what I’m saying?” Harper said. “The thing is I've always tried to come to spring hitting the ground running and ready to go. And now this year it's kind of just, you know, we'll get into it when I need to. And then once I'm ready to go, I'm ready to go. But at this point right now, I feel no pain. I feel good, I feel strong, and I feel ready to go.”

Fans back at the Bank?
The Phillies could have fans in the stands at Citizens Bank Park on Opening Day. How many remains to be seen, but some is better than none.

“I can say that it’s likely that there would be some fans in the stands at the Phillies’ home opener, but how many is going to depend not just on us, but what the state decides,” Philadelphia health commissioner Thomas Farley said Tuesday, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The Phillies are optimistic it will happen.

“Well, I would love it,” Phillies manager Joe Girardi said. “And I think our players are going to love it. And I think our players are longing for it. As much as we love to play, we also love to play in front of fans that are passionate like the Philadelphia Phillies fans are. I’m really looking forward to it. That would be a great way to start the season.”

The Phillies will have 2,200 fans in the stands during Grapefruit League games at Spectrum Field. Almost every ticket has been sold to this point.