Bryce Harper’s arrival at spring training camp remains a couple of weeks away as the Philadelphia Phillies slugger recovers from elbow surgery.
Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said Thursday that Harper is taking swings with a bat at home in Las Vegas and will report March 8 or 9.
Harper had surgery on his right elbow in November after leading the Phillies to the NL pennant. The Phillies said then that Harper was expected to return in a designated hitter role by the All-Star break and could play right field by season’s end.
“He’s doing great from the recovery perspective,” Dombrowski said. “In his progress, doctors are happy where he is.”
Phillies manager Rob Thomson said the next step in the rehab progress will be Harper hitting off a tee and taking soft toss in a batting cage.
The 30-year-old Harper sustained small tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in April. He last played right field at Miami on April 16.
Harper had a platelet-rich plasma injection in May and shifted to DH. He went on to help the Phillies reach their first World Series since 2009, and they lost to Houston in six games.
He hit .349 with six homers and 13 RBIs in 17 postseason games.
Harper missed two months last season after breaking a thumb when he was hit by a pitch in late June. The two-time NL MVP hit .286 with 18 homers and 65 RBIs in 99 games.
THOMPSON OFFERS ARBITRATION ANALYSIS
Tampa Bay reliever Ryan Thompson called for more transparency in the arbitration process after losing his case last week. Thompson will make $1 million rather than the $1.2 million he sought.
“The biggest issue with this process to me is that the arbitrators get to make whatever decision they come to, but with no explanation or defense of the decision,” Thompson said in a lengthy Twitter thread. “In any other legal case, the decision is public, this for some reason is very hidden and secretive.
“If the process is created in order for fairness, then why don’t we learn the laws of the land? In some sense, we were shooting in the dark not knowing what the arbitrators leaned into and what they disregarded. These understandings matter.”
Major League Baseball and the players’ association agreed when they established arbitration for 1974 that only a decision would be issued, with no explanation.
Thompson said he had no hard feelings toward the Rays and said they were “as professional and respectful as possible considering the circumstances.” But he had issues with the statistics that were used to judge his worth as a middle reliever.
Thompson said he considers holds and leverage index the most important statistics for a middle reliever or setup man such as himself. He said the Rays discredited his statistics in those categories and noted his blown saves, lack of usage against left-handers and what he cited as a Fangraphs metric called “meltdowns,” which essentially notes whether a pitcher made his team more likely to lose by a certain amount.
Thompson also noted that he was told not to reveal the date of his case to make sure arbitrators wouldn’t research him beforehand and create a bias.
“However, upon entry to the hearing, they all have phones out and they use them freely during the breaks,” Thompson tweeted. “After the case, they don’t sit in the room and hash out the decision, but rather they had to the hotel bar. It is extremely disconcerting that the arbitrators are socializing, drinking and using their devices prior to making a decision. (Not at all assuming foul play). Just an obvious flaw I witnessed.”
Thompson, 30, went 3-3 with three saves and a 3.80 ERA in 47 appearances last season.
Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Corbin Burnes said last week “there’s no denying that the relationship is definitely hurt” after the 2021 NL Cy Young Award winner heard the team’s arguments during a hearing he lost, resulting in a $10.01 million salary rather than the $10.75 million he requested
Major League Baseball proposed in bargaining last year to replace arbitration with a metric-based system, but the players’ association preferred the current system.
CORTES CONTINUES ADVANCING
New York Yankees All-Star left-hander Nestor Cortes worked an inning in his first simulated game since a strained right hamstring resulted in a 10-day layoff.
The injury cost Cortes a chance to pitch for the U.S. in the World Baseball Classic.
Cortes, who struck out Anthony Rizzo, is set to have another simulated game before possibly appearing in a spring training game.
“Actually, it was a lot better than I thought it would be,” Cortes said. “Just because it was my first live, I didn’t know how the leg was going to react with the intensity and facing those guys.”
Cortes went 12-4 with a 2.44 ERA in 28 starts last year.
BEN GAMEL JOINS RAYS
Outfielder Ben Gamel and the Tampa Bay Rays finalized a minor league contract.
Gamel, who turns 31 on May 17, hit .232 with nine home runs and 46 RBIs in 115 games with the Pittsburgh Pirates last season. He’s a .253 career hitter with 40 homers and 198 RBIs over portions of seven seasons with the New York Yankees, Seattle, Milwaukee, Cleveland and Pittsburgh.
AP freelance writer Mark Didtler contributed to this report.
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