Bryce Harper didn’t wait long to make an impact in his first career start at first base.
The Philadelphia Phillies star, and regular designated hitter, was inserted for the first time in a game Friday against the Cleveland Guardians, his first time on the field since tearing his right UCL on April 16, 2022. Since that day, he had made 151 consecutive starts at DH.
The first two innings gave Harper a few ground shots to deal with, but his first real action came in the third inning when Guardians shortstop Amed Rosario hit a rude pop-up seemingly intended for the stands. Harper stayed with the ball and jumped right into the camera to make a highlight catch:
Pretty good for a guy who didn’t play defense last year.
According to MLB.com, the Phillies’ plan is to play Harper at first base just about every other game and see how his body responds. He underwent Tommy John surgery early in the offseason after playing the season with a torn ACL. It’s unclear when Harper will return to playing in right field, the position where he has played in 947 of his 1,259 career games, or if he will step back at all.
The Phillies probably won’t care where he plays as long as he starts hitting like an MVP again. After earning his second career MVP in 2021 and All-Star honors in 2022, Harper entered Friday hitting .295/.388/.415 with four homers and six stolen bases in 63 games.