Which Phillie might be the odd man out if Bryce Harper is cleared to play in LA? originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
HOUSTON — The Phillies could be facing a roster decision Tuesday, one they’d welcome because it would mean the return of Bryce Harper.
Harper has his follow-up appointment Monday in Los Angeles with Dr. Neal ElAttrache, the renowned orthopedic surgeon who performed his Tommy John surgery on November 23.
Harper has been going so hard in his rehab, working out so intensely that manager Rob Thomson admitted it would be disappointing if he’s not cleared Monday. And if he is, he could be back in the Phillies’ lineup Tuesday as the designated hitter.
If/when that happens, the Phils will have to option one of their position players to the minors unless an injury occurs first. The likeliest candidates are outfielder Jake Cave and corner infielder Kody Clemens, both left-handed hitters.
Both Cave and Clemens have options remaining. So does Dalton Guthrie, but Guthrie’s right-handed bat will probably keep him around. Guthrie was called up over the weekend when Cristian Pache tore the meniscus in his right knee and Thomson said he would slide right into Pache’s role as an occasional starter in center field against a tough left-handed pitcher.
Clemens began his Phillies career 1 for 16 but has homered in three of his last four starts and driven in a run in all four. He homered Saturday and Sunday in Houston, where he grew up.
Cave also had a productive weekend, going 3 for 4 with two doubles in the Phillies’ win Saturday over Cristian Javier. He’s had some big hits this season. He homered off of Sandy Alcantara on April 10 to start the Phillies’ scoring, with teammate Brandon Marsh crediting him after the game with opening the floodgates. Cave hit a three-run double and an RBI single on April 16 in Cincinnati. He hit an RBI single with the Phillies trailing the Rockies by two on April 21, a game they came back to win by a run. He provided the Phils insurance Saturday with a late RBI single that helped them avoid using Jose Alvarado, Gregory Soto and Craig Kimbrel.
The decision of Cave or Clemens could go either way. Cave, a six-year vet, is probably the better hitter and overall player, but Clemens probably makes more sense positionally as a left-handed-hitting option at first base against righties.
Cave can play center field but hasn’t yet this season. He probably won’t because Marsh is the everyday starter and is also a left-handed hitter. When Marsh does sit, the nod would go to Guthrie as it went to Pache previously. And with Harper returning as the Phillies’ DH, it means Kyle Schwarber will be locked in to left field on a daily basis, turning Cave into a pinch-hitter.
Eventually, the Phillies hope to use Harper at first base, which will afford them more flexibility, but that’s still a ways away.
Here’s what a Phillies lineup with Harper might look like:
1. Bryson Stott, 2B (L)
2. Trea Turner, SS
3. Bryce Harper, DH (L)
4. Nick Castellanos, RF
5. Kyle Schwarber, LF (L)
6. J.T. Realmuto, C
7. Brandon Marsh, CF (L)
8. Alec Bohm, 1B
9. Edmundo Sosa, 3B
“I really like the balance of this lineup, and when you get Harper back and he gets hot, it’s a long lineup,” Thomson said. “It’s going to be a handful for a lot of pitchers.”