Bryce Harper Takes the Field, Hits Bombs, Could Be in Games Next Weekend

CLEARWATER, Fla. - Bryce Harper worked out with his new teammates for the first time Sunday morning.

He could get some at-bats in a Grapefruit League game as soon as next weekend, according to manager Gabe Kapler.

In his first official workday with the Phillies, Harper stretched, played catch, took batting practice - he launched several long home runs - and shagged balls in the outfield.

When he was done, he put his glove on his head and signed autographs for fans, one who yelled, "Welcome home!" Harper signed a 13-year contract worth a record $330 million with the Phillies. When the deal is over, Philadelphia really will be home.

"At the end of this, I could have a couple of kids and they could be able to say they're from Philly," Harper said after Saturday's news conference.

For now, the 26-year-old slugger is getting used to his new surroundings. Before hitting the field Sunday morning, he spent three hours in the clubhouse, bonding with his new teammates before many of them boarded a pair of buses for a trip to Fort Myers and a game against the Twins.

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Harper reported to camp in excellent shape. He had been taking batting practice at home in Las Vegas but will need time to ramp up the intensity before he's ready to see pitches in a game. The progression will include his taking live batting practice for a few days. Live BP is thrown by a real pitcher, not a coach, from 60 feet, 6 inches, using a full repertoire of pitches.

"I'll try to see as much live BP as I can this week to get ready for games and stuff like that," Harper said. "I just want to see pitches. It doesn't matter who it's from or anything like that. I just want to see rotation (of the ball), feel what it feels like to be in my cleats again and be on the grass and just be out there."

Harper said it typically takes him 40 to 45 game at-bats to be ready for the season.

Since Harper's signing, the Phillies have sold more than 220,000 tickets back home and another 10,000 in Clearwater. Fans are eager to see him play in Grapefruit League action and Kapler said he'd likely get at-bats as the designated hitter against the Blue Jays in Clearwater on Saturday.

"I'm going to take my time," Harper said after Sunday's workout. "I don't want to rush. I'm going to take it day by day and once I can get into a game, I will.

"But I'll be ready for opening day, March 28."

That's the important thing.

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