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July 15, 2023

Bryce Harper is nearing his first-base debut for the Phillies

But manager Rob Thomson said the club is going to ease him into it.

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Bryce-Harper-Phillies-Marlins-7.8.2023-MLB.jpg Jim Rassol/USA TODAY Sports

Bryce Harper on the basepaths against the Marlins before the All-Star break.

UPDATE [July 16, 12:15 p.m. ET] – Harper will be getting his first start at first base this week against the Brewers, though the Phillies haven't nailed down what day yet.

Either way, Harper's return to the field is imminent, and if he can settle in at first it would give the Phillies a lot more lineup flexibility to work with from here on out. 


The Phillies aren't ready to test out the Bryce Harper at first base experiment just yet, but they sure are close.

Not close enough to try during this weekend's series against the Padres (with 2 of 4 games already down), but when Milwaukee visits for a three-game set beginning Tuesday? There's a decent chance. 

But they're going to exercise caution, as they have with every step of Harper's rehab from Tommy John surgery – as fast as it's been.

"We're going to ease him into this thing," manager Rob Thomson said Friday (via NBC Sports Philadelphia's Corey Seidman). "Play him, give him a day off. Play him two days, give him a day off. It's not going to be every day."

But they at least need to see if this is going to work, because if it does, it'll go a long way in shaping their plans leading up to the August 1 trade deadline. 

Still without Rhys Hoskins for the foreseeable future, the Phillies went into the first of Saturday's doubleheader against San Diego with Drew Ellis playing first base, and with Darick Hall, Alec Bohm, and Kody Clemens (in the minors) as their other immediate options on the 40-man roster to help out at the position. 

If Harper can step in and hold up well though, it would offer the Phillies the regularity they've lacked at first all year, and allow them to fully focus on addressing other needs through the trade market – like going out and finding a corner outfielder.

Knowing Hoskins was out long-term with an ACL tear, Harper started working on a possible switch to first base in April all while he was trying to make his way back to the lineup as the team's designated hitter, which he accomplished in early May.

In the time since, he's gradually ramped up his throwing program and drill work with infield coach Bobby Dickerson, to the point where Thomson said Friday that Harper had cleared all the necessary hurdles to begin playing first, per Seidman

He sees the potential for Harper to be good at it quickly too. 

"I think in time he’s going to be really good because he’s athletic, his glove skills are really good, he moves his feet, he’s reading hops. The thing we have to move through as this thing goes on is just situational," Thomson said. "Cuts and relays, bunt plays, that type of thing. We have no other way to do it other than put him in a game."

And with the clock counting down to August 1, the Phillies need to see sooner rather than later if this is going to work. 

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