No Timetable on Bryce Harper's Grapefruit League Debut, But He'll Be Ready for Opening Day

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

He hit the Spectrum Field grass at 10 a.m., stretched, played catch, took batting practice - launching 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 officially signed a 13-year contract worth a record $330 million with the Phillies on Saturday. 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, Harper is getting used to his new surroundings. Before taking 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.

Though Harper reported to camp in excellent shape, this was his first official baseball workout since the end of last season. He is not ready for game action. He had been taking batting practice at home in Las Vegas - his dad, Ron, throws killer BP - 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 several days. Live BP is thrown by a real pitcher, not a coach, from 60 feet, 6 inches, using a full repertoire of pitches.

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Harper said he still needed to meet with manager Gabe Kapler to determine his path for the remainder of the spring. Though he is behind, he will have enough time to be ready for opening day.

"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. He can get some of those in a controlled setting in minor-league games later this month if need be.

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 Harper play in Grapefruit League action and they will. This is just a guess but it would not be surprising to see Harper start to get into some games around the end of next week, March 15-17. The Phillies are home in Clearwater those three days and Sunday, March 17 is St. Patrick's Day and the stands will be full with festive fans. Again, this is all a guess.

"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."

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