Has Bryce Harper found his second career?

August 6th, 2022

This story was excerpted from Todd Zolecki's Phillies Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

Bryce Harper is looking toward a “September-ish” return to the Phillies.

It probably means anywhere from the final week of August to the first week of September. But the Phillies never placed Harper on the 60-day injured list. If they had, he could not have been activated until Aug. 25. So, they at least considered the possibility he could return before then.

Harper is keeping himself busy in the meantime. He spent five innings in the Phillies’ TV booth on Thursday. It was an entertaining and insightful listen, particularly when Harper talked hitting.

Some highlights:

The first pitch of the game rocketed into the radio booth and clanked off Scott Franzke’s hands. John Kruk remarked that everybody would be fired if the ball had sailed into the TV booth and hit Harper’s left thumb.

“Who approved me being up here?” Harper joked.

“He’s so good when he’s staying through the baseball,” Harper said. “It’s such an impressive at-bat when he’s staying through the ball and going to right-center. Then, that accidentally just happens.”

Harper and Kruk discussed the responsibilities of a hitting coach. Many players get to the ballpark several hours before first pitch to hit. Hitting coaches are there the entire time.

“I don’t take BP much on the field because of that reason,” Harper said. “I think you can hit yourself into a slump as much as you can just get into a slump. I think guys just need to be part of the game. You can’t lose the feel part of your game because of video and stuff like that. You can dig a hole as deep as you can and not get out of it until that next year. I know guys that have played in the league that love to hit after games for two hours because they think they can hit out of it. I’m not one of those guys that can do that, because I just don’t [want] to do that. I don’t want to hurt my hands. There are certain things that guys can do to help them, but not trying to do too much [helps], as well.”

Alec Bohm has hit .400 since the end of June.

“Getting his foot down was huge for him,” Harper said. “It’s so smooth. … Alec is one of the guys that he wants to be so good. I love that mentality about him. But he’s going to struggle. It’s OK to struggle. I think you have to learn that, as well. It’s OK to struggle. Every guy in this league struggles. That’s OK.”

Harper later remarked how much Bohm reminds him of Jayson Werth. It has been said before, but Harper offered his reasons why.

“The thing about J is J could get the base knocks to right -- and he’d pull the ball to left-center over that Toyota sign [for a home run],” Harper said. “And then go right-center off the LifeBrand [sign hanging over the second deck]. He did such a good job of doing that. I see that swing in [Bohm] so much. So controlled, close to his body.

“If I’m going to teach my son how to swing, it’s going to be a very similar swing as J-Dub and Bohmer, because it’s so close to their [bodies]. It’s so compact. Everything they do is so compact. It’s so easy. There’s not many steps.”

Kruk asked Harper if he will employ a two-strike approach when he returns, since he has not seen live pitching in months. It means spreading out in his stance and ditching his leg kick.

“I don’t like to go into the two-strike approach unless I really, really have to,” Harper said. “I went into it a little bit more than I wanted to this year, just because I was rolling with it a little bit. I just don’t want to lose my 0-2 homers or my 1-2 homers or anything like that.”

Kruk told a story from his Padres days and how a first-round pick looked terrible shagging fly balls in the outfield. Kruk asked the player if he was the bat boy and wondered how the Padres' GM had not been fired yet for drafting him.

“Hey, how was your first day?” Harper said, laughing. “Well, John Kruk told me I’m the worst player in the country.”

Harper talked about youth athletes and the pressures they face.

“You are constantly trying to be like that other person,” he said. “You’re constantly trying to be better, to try to live up to what that kid is doing -- instead of worrying about what you’re doing, trying to be yourself and being great at what you do. Kids lose that sometimes. Also, parents and coaches lose that because, ‘Oh, you’ve got to be like this guy,’ or, ‘I want to swing like this,’ instead of letting your natural ability take over as a kid. You’re growing up. You’re playing the game and trying to play the game that you love because you love it. Kids are constantly trying to look like somebody else or be somebody else, instead of just trying to be themselves and love what they do and be great at what they do with their abilities -- and not somebody else’s.”

He talked about how kids are obsessed with local and national rankings and getting a Division I scholarship.

“If you’re good, you’ll be seen,” he said.

The broadcast replayed Harper’s walk-off grand slam against the Cubs in 2019. Kruk had a fantastic reaction as soon as the ball left Harper’s bat and sailed into the second deck.

“Oh, my God!” he said on the broadcast.

“I remember, Krukkie,” Harper said. “My dad texted me. What did you say? Oh, my gah? It was so cool.”

“I was glad that’s what came out,” Kruk said.