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Bryce Harper is back in action after undergoing Tommy John surgery. On Friday, he’ll make his first appearance of the season at Citizens Bank Park and will surely get a massive ovation.
That’s a problem, what with the new pitch clock rules. The Phillies would prefer not to have Harper meet the same fate as the Cubs’ Cody Bellinger upon his return to Los Angles earlier this year.
Expect Harper to get something like that when the Philly crowd sees him step to the plate. That could be a problem for a Harper unless he burns his timeout to tip his cap to the crowd.
However, the bigger problem — the one the Phillies reportedly spoke to the league about — involves the giant arm brace that Harper is wearing when he reaches base. On Wednesday night, Harper reached base every time he stepped to the plate. However, upon doing so he has to throw the brace on to protect his surgically repaired elbow, and he has to do it before a pitch is delivered to the next batter.
He managed to do it four of the five times he made it on base against the Dodgers. In the ninth inning, he struggled with it. It was so bad that the Phillies’ next batter — Nick Castellanos — called timeout. But it was so stuck that Harper decided to scrap it and ran the bases without it, likely horrifying the team doctor in the process.
These issues weren’t a surprise to Harper or the Phillies. They tried to get an exemption for Harper, but it was denied.
“I mean, we talked all the way up to Mr. Manfred and they said we wouldn’t have more time to do that,” Harper said, per The Athletic. “Pace of play thing, of course. It’s going to be tough. … Sometimes it gets jammed or caught.
“I hope maybe some umpires have some feel about it. Some umpires usually do. I appreciate that out of them. But we’ll see. I know they’re going to try to give me extra time. I want to be able to get it on and get it going.”
Harper has had three hits in the two games since he returned to the lineup, all coming Wednesday night.
Follow on Twitter: @Matt_Reigle