LOS ANGELES — Bryce Harper held on to first base in the ninth inning Wednesday at Dodger Stadium after lining up a two-out single to left field and catching a cumbersome elbow brace from coach Paco Figueroa.
If only he had time to put it on.
The clock on the pitch waits for no one, not even a two-time National League MVP who this week capped the fastest comeback on record after Tommy John elbow surgery. The Phillies think he should. Or the referees should have the discretion to suspend the clock for special circumstances.
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Because although Nick Castellanos used his only timeout before his at bat, Harper was unable to get the double in time. He returned it to Figueroa and ran for the bases, eventually scoring the link-up run, without the added protection for his rebuilt elbow ligament.
“It scared me a bit,” manager Rob Thomson said. “Really, they should change the rule to some extent for a superstar, anybody, who has a problem with their guards or whatever, just give them more time. Have an idea so they don’t get hurt. You won’t waste a minute to keep a superstar in the game? »
Harper doesn’t hold her breath.
“We spoke up to Mr. (Rob) Manfred, and they said we wouldn’t have more time to do it,” Harper said, referring to the commissioner. “The pace of play, of course. It’s going to be hard. I usually only have about 22 seconds to put it on. Sometimes it gets stuck or stuck. I hope some referees may have an idea about this. Some referees usually do. I appreciate that of them. We will see.”
Although he was cleared to slide headfirst this week by his surgeon, the latest step in his return to play, Harper plans to wear the brace while performing the basics whenever possible. It resembles the gear worn by some NFL linemen, such as JJ Watt.
A few other off-day observations as the 15-17 Phillies head home for a weekend series against the Red Sox:
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The Phillies allowed double-digit run totals in each of three games against the Dodgers — 36 points in all — and almost no one was immune. All but two of the 11 pitchers who appeared in the series were charged with at least one run.
It’s only a slight exaggeration that infielder Kody Clemens, not quite a piece of his seven-time Cy Young-winning father’s block, was the Phillies’ best pitcher.
“We kind of have to clean up a bit,” Thomson said. “No free passes. No additional bases. We also have to play defense behind the guys. It’s all the total package.
The biggest problem is the fullback of the rotation, especially Taijuan Walker and Bailey Falter, who have ERAs of 6.91 and 5.01 respectively. The Phillies maintain Walker isn’t yet struggling with the forearm stiffness that has dogged him since his second-to-last start. But neither the team nor Walker can explain his skyrocketing 13.2% walk rate either.
And with Thomson concerned about Matt Strahm’s total innings, the Phillies are considering bringing back left-hander Ranger Suárez an earlier-than-original start from a minor league assignment after a strained elbow in spring training.
Maybe Ranger will come to the rotation’s rescue.
READ MORE: Will the Phillies’ Andrew Painter be the next phenom in 2023?
Andrew Painter continues to play catch-up on flat ground of at least 90 feet almost daily in Clearwater, Fla., and “had no problems”, according to agent Scott Boras, in his recovery from a torn ligament in his spring training elbow throw.
The Phillies continue to believe Painter will make his major league debut this year. If so, the 20-year-old phenom — and the best preseason pitching prospect in the sport, according to Baseball America — could be an X-factor for the pitching staff after the All-Star break.
But the team isn’t keen on accelerating Painter’s throwing progress either. Boras is the main advocate of a deliberate pace. He lists pitchers — “Felix Hernandez, (Madison) Bumgarner, Kerry Wood, Fernando Valenzuela, Bret Saberhagen, (Dwight) Gooden” — who had success at a tender age in the majors but couldn’t. maintain in their 30s.
“I hope (Painter) comes back when he’s 22 and his body is developed,” Boras said with a laugh. “He’s a great pitcher. He has a great arm, great stuff. It’s hard when you’re so good. There are plenty of pitchers who can pitch in the major leagues, but their body hasn’t arrived as fast as their arm.
READ MORE: The Phillies’ two greatest shortstops are happy to welcome Trea Turner to the family: ‘We’ve got the right guy’
When the week started, Trea Turner was batting .260/.300/.374 with just eight extra hits and 32 strikeouts in 130 plate appearances.
Take Dodgers manager Dave Roberts: it will get better.
Turner got off to a slow start last season in Los Angeles. Through May 9, he hit .250/.304/.346 with seven extra hits and 24 strikeouts in 115 plate appearances. But he rallied not only to make the All-Star team, but also to flirt with 200 hits (194), near-bat .300 (.298), and rack up 39 doubles, 21 homers and 27 interceptions in 30 attempts.
“He’s a great guy because he doesn’t think too much,” Roberts said. “He doesn’t let success or difficulties affect his daily work. The talent will show. The baseball map – overbase, slug, OPS, average – will be live at the end of the season. It’s an easy bet.
Roberts couldn’t remember exactly what triggered Turner’s turnaround last year. But he said he wouldn’t be surprised if it was an at-bat.
Maybe something like his 420-foot homer that landed on a net in center field at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday night?
The Phillies think so. Either way, Turner remains low on their list of concerns.