CLEARWATER, Fla. (AP) — Bryce Harper finally got his first spring training hit with the Philadelphia Phillies after a 0-for-9 start.
The slugger lined a 97-mph fastball to center on a 2-1 pitch from Detroit Tigers right-hander Spencer Turnbull in the fourth inning of Wednesday’s game. He jokingly gestured toward the dugout that he wanted to keep the ball.
It was Harper’s 16th plate appearance over six exhibition games. Turnbull struck him out swinging in the first.
In his final at-bat, Harper walked against Reed Garrett to lead off the seventh. Harper has struck out six times and drawn five walks.
“Took great swings on pitches that he just missed and fouled back,” Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said after the 3-1 loss to the Tigers. “And one swing, a foul ball (down the third-base side) that was a real near-miss. You could see with just a little bit better timing that ball is in the seats in left field. So, a lot to get excited about there with Bryce.”
Harper played seven innings in right field.
Kapler plans to hit Harper third regularly during the regular season.
“Right now I’m happy with Harper in the three-hole because I think it makes him feel most confident,” Kapler said. “For me, that trumps anything.”
Harper agreed to a $330 million, 13-year contract in late February, almost two weeks after spring training began. He missed one game after getting hit by a pitch in the ankle on Friday.
Phillies infielder Rhys Hoskins didn’t play against the Tigers because of mild left shoulder soreness.
Philadelphia opens the season on March 28 at home against Atlanta.
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