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Pencil in Harper's Phils debut for Saturday

Slugger admits to butterflies after first workout with Phillies
@ToddZolecki
March 3, 2019

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Bryce Harper does not have much time to get used to this Phillies thing. Harper is expected to make his Grapefruit League debut Saturday against the Blue Jays at Spectrum Field. Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said after Sunday's 3-3 tie against the Twins in Fort Myers that

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Bryce Harper does not have much time to get used to this Phillies thing.

Harper is expected to make his Grapefruit League debut Saturday against the Blue Jays at Spectrum Field. Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said after Sunday's 3-3 tie against the Twins in Fort Myers that Harper likely will be the team's designated hitter.

Harper worked out with the Phillies for the first time Sunday. He walked out of the tunnel leading from the clubhouse to the field just before 10 a.m. ET wearing a blue Phillies T-shirt and a backwards cap. He stretched, threw, took batting practice and shagged fly balls in the outfield, like the rest of his teammates that did not travel to Fort Myers. Harper has just 25 days remaining before the Phillies open the regular season against the Braves at Citizens Bank Park.

Harper said he will be ready, but he admitted to a few butterflies Sunday.

"Any time you come into a new situation, whether it's a baseball job or any job, you're a little nervous, a little excited," he said. "I think it's going to take me some time, take my family some time. Of course, I made that comment yesterday about D.C., trying to bring back the title to D.C., and that's something that I tried to do for the last seven years. So it's going to be new, it's going to be different."

Oh, did you miss Harper's slip of the tongue during his introductory news conference Saturday?

He said, "We want to bring a title back to D.C."

Harper quickly recovered, saying, "I want to be on Broad Street on a frickin' boat or whatever -- a thing, a bus, whatever it is -- and have a trophy over my head and do that. Because that's what it's all about."

Harper said he did not realize he mentioned his former city. His wife Kayla told him afterward.

"I was like, 'Oh, man,'" Harper said. "Like I said, it's going to take some time, for sure, but that's part of it. When you grow up from 17 to 25 in an organization and you're trying to do everything you can to win for that organization and bring a title somewhere, you're going to have those slip-ups. That's part of it, but I'm a Phillie and I'm very excited about it."

Harper already has met a couple Phillies legends, when Larry Bowa and Charlie Manuel introduced themselves before Saturday's press conference. Bowa chatted with Harper in the outfield on Sunday.

Harper said years ago that he would love to play for a fiery manager like Bowa or Lou Piniella.

"I told him, 'These fans just want to see you play hard,'" Bowa said. "I don't think he's going to have a problem with it. He's been in the spotlight since he was 16, 17 years old. I think this will be a piece of cake. He's got a great attitude. He said, 'I just care about winning.' I didn't even bring that up. He just said, 'I want to win,' which is what it's about."

Said Manuel: "I think he was the right fit for us. I looked at our team like we had a big four-layer chocolate cake. And all of a sudden we have the icing to go on top of it."

Harper said he probably needs 45 plate appearances to be ready for Opening Day. He'll get his first few Saturday.

"I'm going to take my time," Harper said. "I don't want to rush. I'll be ready for Opening Day, March 28. Just trying to take it day by day, and once I can get into a game, I will. The swing's my swing, so I'll try to see as much live BP as I can this week to get ready for games and stuff like that. I just want to see pitches. I just want to see that and see rotation, feel what it feels like to be in my cleats today and be on the grass and just be out there."

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook .