TAMPA, Fla. -- Bryce Harper got booed every time he batted Wednesday night at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
What else is new?
“I mean, you hear them,” he said during the Phillies’ 5-5 tie with the Yankees. “But I feel like I’ve been hearing them for so long that it’s just part of it, every stadium that I go into I expect to get booed. I just think it’s part of the game and part of the process of playing. I don’t know if it helps or doesn’t help me, but it’s just part of it.”
Some Yankees fans wanted their team to pursue Harper, who grew up a big Yanks fan. But New York never called.
“I know the kind of outfield they have,” Harper said. “They went out and got [Giancarlo] Stanton in that trade. It was kind of up in the air. Never heard from them, but everybody knew that growing up I was a huge Yankees fan, of course. But I’m happy where I’m at and very excited to start my chapter with the Phillies.”
Harper went 0-for-2 with one run scored, one strikeout and one stolen base. He reached on a catcher’s interference in the fifth inning.
“Hey, it’s Spring Training. Can I stay here?” Harper asked home-plate umpire James Hoye.
Hoye told him to take his base.
“I tried,” Harper said, smiling.
Harper has seven plate appearances this spring. He is 0-for-3 with three walks. He will not play Thursday, but he said he will play Friday, Saturday and Sunday in three consecutive games at Spectrum Field in Clearwater against the Blue Jays, Astros and Yankees.
“I feel like I have [seven] at-bats,” Harper said, laughing. “I've still got to get timing and try to hit it in the front window and not the back window. That's one of my biggest things, try to get my at-bats in and be ready for the 28th.”
Harper continues to be the center of attention in camp, bringing the organization the kind of attention it hasn't seen since the Phillies’ National League East title run from 2007-11, when they won the 2008 World Series and '09 NL pennant. Harper spoke to reporters following his first simulated game last week. He spoke to reporters following each of his first three Grapefruit League appearances.
He will continue to bring extra scrutiny to the Phillies.
Asked about advice to players in the Phillies’ clubhouse who are not accustomed to such attention, Harper said, “Just play your game. Just try to enjoy what you do. I'm not really worried about people with microphones or notepads or anything like that. If you have a bad game, talk to the media. If you have a good game, talk to the media. It's one of the big things that's tough for young guys, and I was part of that as well. Nineteen coming up, sometimes 0-for-4, I'm sitting there going, 'Golly I don't want to talk to them again.'
“But also I want [teammates] to be able to lean on me and say, 'I can't do it today,' and I'll answer those questions as well. I want to be able to be a guy that lets them ride on my shoulders a little bit, and if I have to talk to the media one day for them, I will. But like I said, play the game you know how to play. Enjoy what you do. Don't be scared and try to enjoy it.”
Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said last season that he believed the Nos. 2 and 4 spots in his lineup were the most important. It is why he batted Rhys Hoskins and Carlos Santana there.
Kapler’s feelings might be changing. Jean Segura could hit second this season, even though an argument can be made that J.T. Realmuto or Andrew McCutchen might be better suited there.
“Last year, we had a lineup where we had to optimize for every last advantage,” Kapler said. “We know that the right guy in the right spot does give you an edge over the course of a long season, but it’s barely a marginal edge. Now I’m weighing that marginal edge that we get from putting out the strategically optimized lineup every night and balancing that with, how's the clubhouse going to feel with a particular player in a particular spot and how is that player going to feel? That’s probably the thing that I’m thinking about the most.”
In other words, it isn’t just about the numbers.
“Let’s go with the assumption that everyone feels best with Cesar [Hernandez] in the leadoff spot or McCutchen in the leadoff spot,” Kapler said. "Maybe that’s the way to play it. Like, everyone is going to feel best with one of those guys in the leadoff spot. I’m going to go with my gut on this one. I mean I’m going to study the [heck] out of it, but then I’m going to go with my gut on it.”
The Phillies will have split squads in action Thursday. Right-hander Jake Arrieta (0-0, 3.86 ERA) faces the Pirates in Bradenton, while right-hander Drew Anderson (2-0, 1.04 ERA) will pitch against the Rays in Port Charlotte.