Slugger Bryce Harper out of lineup with back spasms; day to day for NL wild card-leading Phillies

Philadelphia Phillies' Bryce Harper covers first base during the third inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals, Thursday, Aug. 10, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum) (Matt Slocum, Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

PHILADELPHIA – Bryce Harper flexed his legs, his shoulders, doing all he could to stay in the game for the Philadelphia Phillies. But back spasms forced the slugger out of one game, and he will have to sit out for at least one more.

Harper was not in the lineup for Friday night’s game against Minnesota, a day after the two-time NL MVP was sidelined by mid-back spasms. There was some good news for the NL champion Phillies as they try to keep the top spot in the NL wild-card race: Harper is day to day and shouldn’t miss much time.

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“I felt better today. We’ll see how I feel tomorrow,” Harper said.

With Harper out of the lineup, the Phillies started Alec Bohm at first base and moved suddenly streaking shortstop Trea Turner to third in the batting order.

Harper said the spasms were unrelated to back pain that kept him out of games in 2021. He said his issues started in the first inning in Thursday’s win over Washington but he wanted to continue to play.

“I just didn’t feel like it was fair for me to come out of the game in the first,” he said. “I thought I could loosen it up. Just wasn’t able to get it loose to where I wanted it to be.”

Harper said he did not think he would be available to pinch-hit in the opener of a three-game series against the Twins.

“We’ll see how they work it out during the course of the night,” manager Rob Thomson said.

Harper had played his 12th game at first base after starting 70 games at designated hitter following offseason Tommy John surgery that limited him to just eight games in right field in 2022. He had not previously played the infield after 1,446 games as an outfielder or designated hitter.

Harper is hitting .293 with seven homers and 38 RBIs. Bohm has received the majority of Philadelphia’s starts at the position in place of Rhys Hoskins, who was lost late in spring training with a left anterior cruciate ligament tear.

The Phillies entered Friday holding a 2½-game lead over San Francisco for the top wild-card spot They were 5-2 on their current 10-game homestand.

Turner has keyed the run to first with a fantastic week that started with a social media push for Phillies fans to cheer him -- often, with standing ovations -- on each at-bat. Turner signed an 11-year, $300 million deal with the Phillies in the offseason, but struggled in his first season in Philly and was even dropped from second to eighth in the batting order.

But since the ovations started last Friday against Kansas City, Turner has hit .370 (10 for 27) with two homers, four doubles, eight RBIs and four runs in seven games.

Turner later splashed a thank you message to fans on digital billboards rented by the Phillies.

“He’s been swinging the bat well, now,” Thomson said Friday. ”(He’s) barreling the ball up now and not jumping and hitting the balls off the end of the bat. When he does that, he’s really good."

Harper had started to find his power groove of late, hitting two homers on the homestand. Through the first seven games of the homestand, the Phillies have hit 18 home runs. The total ties them for most homers over a seven-game span at home since 1901.



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