CLEARWATER, Fla. (AP) — Bryce Harper drew big cheers, a pair of walks and a most unusual defense in his spring training debut for the Philadelphia Phillies.
Both times the slugger with the biggest contract in baseball came to the plate, the Toronto Blue Jays shifted to a four-man outfield, moved the shortstop on the other side of second base and gave the left-handed hitting Harper a wide-open left side of the infield.
“I’ve never seen that. That’s intense,” Harper said, adding he hopes teams don’t do that to him often. “If they start playing ball like that, it’s definitely different.”
Phillies manager Gabe Kapler didn’t want to discuss shift strategy but shared his advice for Harper.
“Hit a lot of homers, drive the ball like you’re capable of, do exactly what you always do, be Bryce Harper,” Kapler said.
Harper drew a loud ovation when he walked up to the plate to Will Smith’s theme song from “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.”
Wearing No. 3 on his uniform, eye black under his eyes and a white armband with “HEART” written in red letters around it, Harper dug into the batter’s box as “In West Philadelphia born and raised…” blared from the stadium’s speakers.
“The ovation they gave me, I’m very humbled, very blessed to be able to get out there and play in front of a fan base like that,” Harper said, adding he’ll probably use a different walk-up song once the season starts. “Selling out a spring training game is pretty incredible to see. Just goes to show how great a fan base Philly is.”
Batting third as the designated hitter, Harper walked twice before exiting.
“It was fun to be out there, get some dirt on my cleats, get in the batter’s box and compete. That’s what I love to do,” Harper said. “I was able to see some pitches, take two swings early in the count, see some splits from a good pitcher, really happy where I was today.”
AROUND THE GRAPEFRUIT AND CACTUS LEAGUES
ROCKIES (SS) 5, DIAMONDBACKS (SS) 1
Roberto Ramos homered and drove in two runs for Colorado in the first of two exhibition games in Mexico. Jeff Hoffman pitched four scoreless innings at Estadio de Beisbol Monterrey, the home of the Sultanes de Monterrey of the Mexican League.
Taylor Clarke pitched 3 1/3 innings for Arizona, allowing two runs and five hits.
PADRES 6, REDS 2
Francisco Mejia belted a grand slam for San Diego, and Wil Myers had two hits in three at-bats. Matt Strahm struck out eight and allowed just two hits over the final four innings.
Sonny Gray pitched two scoreless innings in his first spring training appearance for Cincinnati. The 29-year-old right-hander, who was acquired in an offseason trade with the New York Yankees, was supposed to get into a game last week, but was scratched because of elbow discomfort.
BLUE JAYS 8, PHILLIES 7
Philadelphia starter Jake Arrieta gave up three hits and a walk in 1 2/3 innings. Rhys Hoskins homered for the Phillies.
Anthony Alford hit his fourth home run for Toronto and Teoscar Hernandez got two hits, raising his spring average to .522.
METS 10, RED SOX 2
Zack Wheeler pitched four shutout innings in his third start for New York, allowing one hit and striking out three. Rookie Pete Alonso hit his third home run and singled, raising his average to .423.
Eduardo Rodriguez made his third start for Boston, pitching four innings and giving up one run. Matt Barnes, in line to be the closer, was tagged in his first appearance for three runs and hits in one inning.
ORIOLES (SS) 17, RAYS 15
Austin Hays hit his third home run and a double for Baltimore. Starter Dylan Bundy gave up six runs in 1 2/3 innings. The teams combined for nine errors, six by the Orioles, and seven homers.
Tampa Bay’s Andrew Kittredge also surrendered six runs, but five were unearned. He allowed three hits and one walk, retiring five batters.
BRAVES 6, TIGERS 4
Adam Duvall and Brian McCann had RBI singles for Atlanta. Sean Newcomb struggled in his third start, pitching 2 2/3 innings and surrendering three runs on three hits and three walks.
Michael Fulmer pitched three innings in his third start for Detroit, allowing two runs on four hits and a walk.
ASTROS 9, CARDINALS 3
Adam Wainwright started for a second time for St. Louis, pitching four scoreless innings and allowing two hits and a walk. Marcell Ozuna singled and scored, snapping a 0-for-14 start.
Houston starter Collin McHugh gave up three runs in two innings.
TWINS 10, PIRATES 1
Martin Perez made his second start for Minnesota, pitching four shutout innings. Adam Rosales homered for the Twins.
Corey Dickerson had two singles for Pittsburgh, raising his average to .636.
DODGERS 2, MARINERS 0
Seattle third baseman Kyle Seager will see a hand specialist after rolling his left wrist during a spring training game Friday night. It’s unclear if the injury will risk Seager’s status for the Mariners’ season-opening series in Tokyo on March 20-21.
Enrique Hernandez hit two home runs and Kenta Maeda worked three no-hit innings for Los Angeles. Closer Kenley Jansen pitched the ninth.
Dodgers newcomer Joe Kelly threw a 30-minute bullpen session after recovering from the stiff back that kept him sidelined for three days of workouts. Kelly’s back stiffened after five hours on his feet preparing a crawfish boil for a team dinner.
CUBS (SS) 8, GIANTS 0
Chicago starter Cole Hamels pitched 3 1/3 innings. San Francisco’s Dereck Rodriguez allowed three runs on four hits, striking out five over 3 2/3 innings.
CUBS (SS) 11, ANGELS (SS) 4
Nick Hoerner, the Cubs’ 2018 first-round draft pick, started at shortstop and went 2 for 2 with two RBIs and three runs scored. Alec Mills, considered the team’s insurance policy should any of its five starters get injured, was scratched from the start due to back stiffness.
Jo Adell, the Angels’ top prospect, suffered a left hamstring strain and a right ankle sprain when he slipped running around second base.
BREWERS (SS) 5, ANGELS (SS) 1
Eric Thames and Christian Yelich homered for Milwaukee while Josh Tomlin worked five one-hit innings in the start.
Trevor Cahill went 3 1/3 innings for the Angels. Jerry Blevins was tagged for six earned runs on three hits and two walks while recording just one out.
BREWERS (SS) 11, ATHLETICS 2
Brandon Woodruff struck out five over three innings in the start for Milwaukee and Zack Brown worked three hitless innings of relief. Keston Hiura, the Brewers’ 2017 first-round draft pick, homered for the second straight day.
INDIANS 7, ROCKIES (SS) 1
Cleveland starter Shane Bieber threw four one-hit innings, striking out four. Reliever Tyler Clippard was pulled because of pectoral tightness and will be evaluated Sunday.
Despite complaining that he was coming down with a stomach bug, Colorado starter German Marquez struck out nine without allowing an earned run over three innings. Marquez, who shares the major league record with eight strikeouts to start a game, scattered a run on four hits and a walk.
WHITE SOX 12, RANGERS 2
James McCann hit a two-run homer and Reynaldo Lopez struck out seven over four innings for Chicago.
Edinson Volquez allowed just two hits over his three scoreless innings for Texas.
DIAMONDBACKS 13, ROYALS 5
Arizona’s Luke Weaver gave up six hits but allowed just one earned run over 3 1/3 innings.
Kansas City’s Jakob Junis allowed one run on three hits while fanning four in his three-inning start. Drew Storen got one out in the eighth but allowed three earned runs on four walks.
MARLINS 2, NATIONALS 1
Curtis Granderson ended a 0-for-10 start with a solo home run for Miami.
Pablo Lopez pitched four perfect innings in his first start, striking out four. The Marlins had a perfect game going until Pedro Severino singled with one out in the eighth off Wei-Yin Chen.
Pedro Martinez and five Boston relievers combined for the only previous perfect game in spring training when the Red Sox beat Toronto 5-0 on March 15, 2000.
YANKEES 6, ORIOLES (SS) 1
Gary Sanchez, who came into the game batting .059, had an RBI single and a sacrifice fly for New York. Gleyber Torres doubled and scored and Greg Bird added a run-scoring single.
Anthony Santander had a double and is batting .458 for Baltimore. Mychal Givens, in the mix for the closer’s job, pitched a scoreless inning after allowing six runs over 1 1/3 innings in his first two outings.