Phillies tab Bryce Harper for rare CF start amid injury
By Matt Rappa
Phillies star Bryce Harper will make his first center field start since September 2018
Playing in center field may have not been Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Bryce Harper‘s preferred choice, but with the team riddled with injuries in the outfield — and hindered by the inability of those healthy to play the position (against left-handed pitching) — the two sides appear to have no choice.
For the first time in a Phillies uniform, the six-time All-Star will start at center field as the team takes on their division-rival New York Mets in the four-game series Labor Day finale matinee.
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Manager Joe Girardi‘s surprise lineup decision comes after Roman Quinn was placed on the 7-day concussion injured list this past weekend. The Phils still have former first-round pick Adam Haseley at their disposal to play center field, but it appears they are reluctant to use him against the Mets’ left-handed-throwing David Peterson.
The Phillies have given Haseley just three plate appearances this season opposite southpaws, in which he is 0-for-3 with one strikeout. Last season as a rookie, Haseley slashed just .212/.281/.250 in 57 plate appearances.
Two two other active Phillies outfielders, Andrew McCutchen, and Kyle Garlick, are limited to playing in just the left and right field positions. Jay Bruce is currently sidelined on the 10-day injured list with a left quad strain. Still, Harper, and even Haseley, likely would have been tabbed to start in center field over Bruce if he was healthy.
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So, Harper will make his first start in center field since September 2018 with the Washington Nationals. When the slugger signed with the Phillies around the start of spring training 2019, he said: “I know I was terrible last year in center field. I feel like if I can stay out of center field, that’d be great.”
Not even two full seasons have come and gone before the Phillies opted to go against such wish. It will be interesting to see how Harper performs in Sunday’s series finale at Citi Field.