The Philadelphia Phillies suffered a massive blow to their batting lineup when first baseman Rhys Hoskins, who hit 30 home runs in 2022, tore his ACL in a non-contact injury suffered in a spring training game, ending his 2023 season. The Phillies' situation at first base was further disrupted when Darick Hall, who was starting in place of Hoskins, suffered a UCL injury that required surgery that will sideline Hall for at least two months.
With a limited number of options, it seems the Phillies are planning to give the two-time National League Most Valuable Player and the 2022 NLCS MVP, Bryce Harper, a chance to take over the first base position, for at least a short time.
Rumors that the Phillies' may be considering teaching Bryce Harper to play first base first surfaced late Wednesday night. On Thursday morning, both The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Athletic officially reported that Bryce Harper himself brought the idea to the Phillies Manager Rob Thomson following the Phillies' 3-2 loss to the Miami Marlins in 10 innings on Wednesday.
Bryce Harper playing 1st base for Phillies could ease transition back to OF
Thomson reportedly responded that he viewed the idea as a "full go", and the idea is not as crazy as it first seems. Regardless if he returns to the outfield or to first base, when Harper does return to the lineup, it will be in the designated hitter role. While Harper has been making excellent progress in recovering from Tommy John surgery, he will still need to return to live bats before he is ready to begin playing any position defensively.
Yet, Harper will still be ready to play first base before he can return to his natural position as a right fielder. This is due to the fact that playing first base generally requires much less throwing than playing right field, and any throwing will be done from substantially shorter distances. While it can be done, the question remains, can it be successful?
Harper, who has experience playing both the third baseman and catcher positions in high school, began practicing at first base with Phillies' first base coach Paco Figueroa Wednesday evening. In a short 23-minute session, Harper practiced unusual motions, fielding some underhanded flips, and refreshing his basics on the position.
When asked by The Athletic if Harper could play first base, Thomson responded "I do, because he's an athlete. He's a baseball rat. He'll work at it." When Bobby Dickerson, a longtime infield coach for the Phillies, was asked about Harper playing first, he answer that the real test wouldn't come until Harper tries it in-game, and said "But my gut tells me, knowing how he handles big situations and stress and all of that, I think he’ll be able to slow the game down."
Regardless, third baseman Alec Bohm or Kodi Clemens will likely be handling the bulk of the first baseman duties for the time being. However, if Harper and the Phillies both believe that Harper will be ready to play in the infield before Darick Hall, it is increasingly likely that we see Harper return to the Phillies' batting lineup sometime in May and to the Phillies' defense as soon as June.