Phillies star Bryce Harper makes catch tumbling into photo pit in first career start at first base

Full Screen
1 / 7

Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Bryce Harper catches a foul ball hit by Cleveland Guardians' Amed Rosario for an out in the third inning of a baseball game Friday, July 21, 2023, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

CLEVELAND – Bryce Harper has made quite a first impression.

Making his first career start at first base, Philadelphia’s star slugger made a tough catch while tumbling into a photographer's pit in the third inning of Friday night's game against the Cleveland Guardians.

Recommended Videos

Leading off the third, Cleveland's Amed Rosario hit a towering pop down the first-base line. Harper, who has spent the bulk of his major league career in the outfield, tracked the ball before snagging it and then falling.

Harper was uninjured and popped to his feet as the Phillies and their fans likely exhaled in relief.

The Phillies have moved the two-time MVP to first ahead of the trading deadline to see if he can handle the position before they make any moves.

So far, so good.

Manager Rob Thomson said the initial plan is for the two-time MVP to play in the field every other game. Harper will be the designated hitter when he's not at first.

Harper, who has made a quick recovery from Tommy John surgery last year, has played 1,258 games __ mostly in the outfield. He had not played any defense this year while his elbow recovers.

“I’m excited to see how he does,” Thomson said before the opener of a three-game series with the Guardians. “We’ve prepared him and now it’s just about getting used to game speed and getting used to those situations.”

As if on cue, Harper fielded a grounder by Cleveland leadoff hitter Steven Kwan in the first and flipped the ball to Phillies starter Ranger Suárez covering the bag for an out.

Thomson also joked he's happy to not have to answer any more questions about Harper's move.

Harper has been getting in extra infield work lately, and a few days ago he approached Thomson and said he was ready for a game. Before taking pregame grounders in Progressive Field, Harper chatted briefly with team David Dombrowski, the team's president of baseball operations.

Thomson is confident Harper will adapt quickly to his new spot.

“I don’t think ground balls will necessarily be a problem and throws across the diamond won’t be a problem or cuts and relays," he said. "The thing that he’s got to get used to is fielding the position on bunt plays, but we’ve had enough time practicing on that so I think he’s going to be fine.”

The defending National League champion Phillies enter the weekend 10 1/2 games out of first place in the NL East but in the thick of the wild-card race.

Not every player could handle a position switch like Harper is undertaking.

But he's not like most players.

“He expects a lot out of himself, that’s for sure,” Thomson said. "But I think it helps being experience being able to handle that as opposed to a younger player that hasn’t accomplished much yet. I think he’ll be fine.”

With Harper at first, the Phillies can use Kyle Schwarber as their designated hitter. Nick Castellanos started Friday's game in right and Philadelphia recalled Jake Cave from Triple-A Lehigh Valley to play left.

If Harper shows he can hold things down at first, the Phillies could pursue a right-handed hitting outfielder via trade.

A seven-time All-Star and one of baseball's most dynamic players, Harper is batting .295 with four homers and 26 RBIs in 63 games.

Guardians manager Terry Francona was confident Harper can make the position switch without any difficulty.

“From watching him for years, he looks to me like a semi-decent athlete,” Francona joked. “He’s had time to work at it and I’m sure they wouldn’t put him out there until they were comfortable he were going to be able to do it.”


AP MLB:  and

Recommended Videos