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July 21, 2023

Bryce Harper will start at first base for the Phillies to open Cleveland series

Harper returns to the field for the first time in more than a year and a crucial experiment begins for the Phils.

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Phillies-Bryce-Harper_061223_USAT Eric Hartline/USA Today Sports

Bryce Harper will be back in the field for the first time in more than a year.

Friday night's lineup has been posted. Bryce Harper will start at first base for the Phillies out in Cleveland, marking his return to the field for the first time in over a year and the start of a crucial experiment for the club. 

If Harper can step in and prove he can reliably hold up at first over these next couple of weeks, then that will free up the DH spot for Kyle Schwarber and allow the Phillies to go out and try to find one more outfielder – preferably a right-handed hitting one – leading up to the August 1 trade deadline.

"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 earlier this week. "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."

And now's finally the time to start figuring that out. 

As he was working his way back to the lineup from Tommy John surgery, and knowing Rhys Hoskins was out long-term with an ACL tear, Harper began running fielding drills at first base in April in the hopes that a position switch could potentially help the team later in the season. 

He and the Phillies stuck with it, and though there were a couple of delays in the leadup to it, they're finally ready to roll the experiment out and see where it leaves them with the short amount of time they have left to make any significant moves. 

The Phillies also made a handful of coinciding roster moves ahead of Friday night's game, which included sending Darick Hall back to the minors and calling up outfielder Jake Cave, who's been hitting .346 with a 1.113 OPS over in Lehigh Valley, up from Triple-A. 

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

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