Phillies’ Bryce Harper returns from injury, throws major shade at Joe Girardi

Bryce Harper #3 of the Philadelphia Phillies (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
Bryce Harper #3 of the Philadelphia Phillies (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) /

Bryce Harper returns to the Phillies lineup, makes spicy post-game comments.

After a 52-game hiatus due to a fractured thumb, Philadelphia Phillies star Bryce Harper made his long-awaited return to the lineup in Friday evening’s 7-4 series opener victory against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

With the bases loaded and nobody out, Harper got the chance to contribute right away in the bottom of the first inning — delivering a two-run single to right field to give the Phillies an early 2-0 lead.

While that would be the designated hitter’s lone contribution on the night, Harper seemed to be in good spirits in his post-game interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Tom McCarthy and John Kruk — although, about midway through, he seemed to throw some major shade at former Phillies manager Joe Girardi.

Harper began the interview by expressing how it felt great for him to be back with his teammates and in front of fans at Citizens Bank Park:

"“They put me in a really good situation that first inning to be successful right there and I was able to do it. I thought tonight was great getting the first win of the series.”"

Without Harper in the lineup, the Phillies managed to stay in contention in the National League postseason race — recording an impressive 32-20 record. The seven-time All-Star commented that the team has played great in his absence and that he didn’t want to come back and mess things up:

"“I’m just trying to do what I can to help each night. I’m just really excited to be back and in front of all these fans … just being back in the Bank, hitting the baseball."

When asked about how impressive it has been watching some of the younger players on the Phillies roster turning their seasons around, Harper commented that “it’s what you expect” out of them:

"“That’s what every good team has. When you go out there and spend the money on the free-agent market like we did, we need to have our young guys be able to step up, pitch, hit and do the things they can to win games. You’ve seen that the [Bryson] Stott. You’ve seen that with Bohmer. [Matt] Vierling has been great for us … [Nick] Maton.All the guys that came up continue to have success. I believe everybody is working hard in the minor leagues and they’ve been able to come up here and really be successful.”"

It is no coincidence that almost all of the aforementioned players’ seasons turned around when Rob Thomson replaced Joe Girardi as manager in early June. The 2009 World Series-winning skipper was criticized in his final weeks leading the Phillies for giving veterans like Johan Camargo opportunities over Stott and Bohm — thus hindering their development.

Harper was not shy to comment that the team has a manager in Thomson who wants these younger players to succeed:

"“You’ve seen that in Rob Thomson — giving them the opportunities, giving them the chances to play, and giving them the chances to be successful in every spot they’re in.”"

While the reigning MVP did not come out and reference Girardi by name, you have to read between the lines to know that he definitely was taking a shot at his former manager — who coached the team to a disappointing 22-29 record before his dismissal earlier this season.

Harper concluded the post-game interview by saying that he does not care where the players on the Phillies roster come from, who they are, or how old they are. The one thing about the clubhouse that he wants his teammates to know is that he considers everyone as family:

"“You’re part of our group. We want you to be successful, have fun and enjoy it, but you’ve also got to work hard and do that as well. But we play as one. We try to be as one and try to have that one heartbeat.”"

Harper said that if this one “heartbeat” mantra can keep going and translate into a successful September, the Phillies will be “very scary” in the postseason.

Without a doubt, having Harper back and healthy is already paying its dividends. The lineup is lengthened, and the team in general just has a very strong leader once again in Harper — who is determined to keep the team focused on clinching its first postseason berth in 11 years.

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