The Washington Post

Phillies’ Harper says he is not rushing his return


Philadelph­ia Phillies slugger Bryce Harper joined his teammates at spring training and hasn’t ruled out being back by the all-star break after Tommy John surgery.

“Things can change either way,” the two-time National League MVP said Thursday in Clearwater, Fla. “I could be after. I could be before. But as of right now that’s the date we kind of solidified. We’re not going to rush. We’re going to be smart about it.”

Dressed in red Phillies shorts with pinstripes and a white workout shirt, Harper sat on top of a picnic table outside the clubhouse.

“Just excited to be back out here, some sunshine and some warm weather,” he said. “Just really excited to be around the team again.”

Harper was hurt in April and last played right field April 16 in Miami. He had surgery in November.

“Once I was done with surgery, I took the time off that I needed to let it heal,” Harper said. “It’s still healing right now, still evolving. Just trying to see how I feel each day and go from there.”

Entering the fifth season of a 13-year, $330 million contract, Harper is taking swings with a bat but not facing pitches.

“I’ve never dealt with anything like an elbow, so definitely it’s different waters for me,” he said. “Just trying to take it day by day.”

Manager Rob Thomson said Harper is making progress and added hitting off a tee Thursday. Harper will hit every other day for the time being.

Thomson added that Harper probably won’t take batting practice before spring training ends.

• YANKEES: Carlos Rodón’s debut for New York is going to have to wait.

The veteran left-hander will begin the season on the injured list with a left forearm strain.

Rodón will be shut down for seven to 10 days, quashing any chance he will be ready by Opening Day, General Manager Brian Cashman said.

The Yankees signed Rodón to a six-year, $162 million deal in the offseason to join a starting rotation that includes Gerrit Cole, Nestor Cortes and Luis Severino.

Rodón struggled in his first spring training appearance, allowing five runs on six hits in two innings against Atlanta on Sunday. Cashman said Rodon’s elbow is fine.

The 30-year-old is coming off a spectacula­r season with San Francisco, going 14-8 with a 2.88 ERA in 178 innings while making the All-star Game for the second consecutiv­e year.

• CARDINALS: Albert Pujols is open to transition­ing into coaching. Eventually. Just not yet.

The retired slugger popped into spring training camp to visit with former St. Louis teammates, and while he believes coaching or some other role within Major League Baseball will happen, he’s not eager to give a timetable.

“Listen: 23 years and 24 years, following a schedule from February all the way to October is tough,” said Pujols, who retired in October after 22 years split mostly between the Cardinals and the Los Angeles Angels. “Now I have the freedom to have my own schedule. That’s something that I’m grateful about.”

Pujols spent a week as a special assistant with the Angels in Arizona shortly after camp opened, but the dalliance was just that. He’s embracing retired life after a career that ended with 703 home runs, fourth on the career list.

The future Hall of Famer probably wouldn’t have to look to hard to find work whenever the time comes. Yet he’s in no hurry.

Pujols stressed he wasn’t going to put a “stamp” on when the right time will be to return to the game in a larger capacity.

• REDS: Hunter Greene will be the Opening Day starter for Cincinnati. The 23-year-old is getting the nod as he begins his second season in the majors.

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