PHILADELPHIA – Baseball purists can bemoan the National League’s decision to adopt the designated hitter this season.
Right now, the DH is the only thing keeping Bryce Harper in the Phillies’ lineup.
An MRI on the right fielder’s throwing elbow revealed a mild strain in his flexor tendon. If it weren’t for the DH, he would be forced to go on the 10-day injured list. Instead, Harper was batting third as the Phillies began a three-game series against the Milwaukee Brewers at Citizens Bank Park on Friday night.
“Being able to stay in the lineup is all I care (about),” Harper said in the clubhouse Friday afternoon. “I’m very happy we have one of those (DH spots).”
Harper called the mild strain diagnosis the best-case scenario. He will not throw again until Tuesday.
“I’m going to test it out and see how it feels,” he said. “I’m going to take my time, but also know I want to go out there and play right field. I’ll probably DH until it feels right. ”
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Harper injured his elbow on the throw to home plate in the Phillies’ 5-4 win over the New York Mets on April 11.
“It felt like I strained a hamstring,” he said.
He has not played the field since last Saturday in Miami but says the injury does not bother him when he swings.
“When I’m hitting right now,” he said, “I do not feel it at all. I’m just going to try to watch the game (as the DH), stay present in the game. I’m just happy to be in the lineup. “
The Phillies will have to make some adjustments with Harper as a consistent DH. They will be unable to rest players such as catcher JT Realmuto from the field but keep their bats in the lineup. Philadelphia on Friday began a stretch of 10 straight games without a day off.
“It makes me feel bad that guys won’t get days off,” Harper said. “I just want to get back out there and play. I enjoy playing outfield. I enjoy playing right. I enjoy that with the fans. ”
Harper, like many of the Phillies, is off to a slow start. The reigning NL MVP began Friday with just two home runs and a batting average / on-base percentage / slugging percentage slash line of .220 / .310 / .420.
The Phillies (5-8) were in last place in the NL East, 4.5 games back of the first-place Mets.
“We haven’t played our best baseball,” Harper said. “Everybody knows that. We need to go out there today, continue to get better and find out who we are as a team. We’ll figure it out and go out there and play our game. ”
The Phillies activated center fielder Odubel Herrera on Friday and optioned rookie Simon Muzziotti back to Double-A.
Herrera started and batted ninth Friday.
A right oblique strain in spring training prevented Herrera from being ready for the season’s start. Manager Joe Girardi said the plan is to platoon the left-handed Herrera with the right-handed Matt Vierling.
The Phillies desperately need production from center field.
Before Friday, Vierling and Muzziotti were a combined 6 for 36 (.167) with a double and four RBIs.
Herrera batted .260 with 13 home runs and 51 RBIs last season.
“Odubel can get hot and do some pretty special things with the bat,” Girardi said. “We thought he’d help us.”