More Sports:

July 20, 2023

How Bryce Harper's delayed debut at first factors into the Phillies' deadline plans

Harper is hoping to finally play first base against Cleveland this weekend, and whether he can hold up there will shape what kind of moves the Phillies make ahead of the August 1.

The Phillies got a bit ahead of themselves. 

They were aiming to try Bryce Harper at first base this week against the Brewers, but the lineup for the series finale was posted Thursday morning and he was still the designated hitter. 

A wonky practice schedule because of the doubleheader and rain delay from last weekend's series against the Padres, per The Philadelphia Inquirer's Scott Lauber, and Harper dealing with a cold this week, per The Athletic's Matt Gelb, interrupted the plan, but didn't derail it. 

Harper is now hoping to play first at some point this weekend when the club travels to Cleveland for a three-game series beginning Friday night. The Phillies are hoping so too, because with the August 1 trade deadline quickly approaching, determining whether or not Harper can hold up at the position will factor into what kind of moves they'll be looking to make. 

"You're always looking to get better any way you possibly can, but I would say part of what we need is based upon what happens with Bryce," Phillies president Dave Dombrowski said from the club's dugout Wednesday afternoon (via KYW's Dave Uram). "If Bryce can move to first base, it allows us then to free up the DH spot and put [Kyle Schwarber] over there a little bit more. Then we have the ability to decide what we want to do in left field. 

"We could do a lot of different things there or for the outfield, period...I think really what we're looking for a little bit is somebody that can swing the bat from the righthand side would probably be the best way to put it, but not just any position either. So I want to keep a little open-mindedness to that because there are some different types of thought processes that we have."

But right now Harper going to first, Schwarber moving into the DH role, and finding a righthanded outfield bat with some pop to make up for the power lost with Rhys Hoskins on that side of the plate is the leading one. 

MORE: Do Phillies need a fifth starter at the trade deadline?

Dombrowski didn't want to show too much of his hand for the trade deadline while speaking with the media on Wednesday, but the desire for a righthanded hitter, and possibly more starting pitching depth, was clear. 

He did sing the praises of the Phillies' in-house options, noting the athleticism that recent call-up Johan Rojas has brought to the club, along with the hope that they'll have Cristian Pache back from an elbow issue relatively soon. 

But the general belief among fans and media alike is that the Phillies are going to need more, and from the outside, for the postseason push. 

What "more" will look like, however, depends on if Harper can prove he can steadily play first and quickly. 

There's still time, but the clock is ticking, and the Phillies need to know. 

"I'm pretty sure he's gonna be out there by then," manager Rob Thomson said Wednesday (also via Uram). "And we'll have a pretty good idea of whether he can do it or not."

MORE: Tommy John surgery recommended for Andrew Painter

Follow Nick on Twitter: @itssnick

Like us on Facebook: PhillyVoice Sports