CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Bryce Harper remains on schedule to make his Grapefruit League debut Saturday afternoon against the Blue Jays at Spectrum Field.
Harper had 12 plate appearances in a simulated game against five Minor League pitchers at Carpenter Complex on Thursday afternoon. He hit an opposite-field home run in his first at-bat against right-hander Gustavo Armas, who spent time last season with short-season Class A Williamsport and Class A Lakewood.
Harper also doubled down the right-field line and hit another ball to the wall. He put three other balls in play and walked or struck out in his other plate appearances.
“Mostly health,” Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said, when asked what he looked for when he watched Harper’s first few plate appearances. “I just want to make sure that he gets through those at-bats with good timing and good health. I saw that he did.”
Business is booming
Harper is helping the Phillies fill Citizens Bank Park.
Phillies senior vice president of ticket operations and projects John Weber said Thursday that from the time the news about Harper’s 13-year, $330 million contract with the Phillies broke shortly before 3 p.m. ET last Thursday to 3 p.m. ET this Thursday, the Phillies have sold 340,000 tickets.
Anderson is making his case
But if there is an injury or somebody struggles early in the season, the Phillies could look to Triple-A Lehigh Valley for help. Phillies right-hander Drew Anderson continues to assert himself, striking out six and allowing one hit in three scoreless innings Thursday in a 6-0 loss to the Yankees. Anderson has allowed four hits, one run and one walk in 8 2/3 innings this spring. He has struck out 11.
“He’s definitely flashing brightly on our radar right now,” Kapler said.
Anderson started throwing a cutter about three or four weeks ago at the suggestion of Phillies pitching coach Chris Young. Anderson and the Phillies found his slider lacking.
“The cutter is a fastball with an offset grip, so I’m just ripping fastballs down there,” Anderson said. “It’s got some movement, it gets it off the barrel. I’m aiming for contact. It’s coming around. I’d like to see how it does in the season.”
Anderson struck out Troy Tulowitzki and Gary Sanchez using that cutter.
Anderson has benefited from the Phillies’ decision to have their five big league starters open the spring throwing in controlled live batting practice sessions. It has allowed Anderson to make three starts, giving him ample opportunity to impress the coaching staff.
“As long as you’re throwing against big leaguers and trying to get them out, that’s what you want to do,” Anderson said.
Said Kapler: “He continues to strike batters out, miss bats. The fastball-cutter combination is looking like a really lethal weapon for him.”
Phillies 3, Tigers 1
Eflin will make his second Grapefruit League start on Friday, when the Phillies hit the road to face the rival Braves in a 6:05 p.m. ET game at Champion Stadium.