If Bryce Harper has a sore back, he can take care of it next week, or the week after, or the week after that should the Phillies remain active in the postseason.
He will not, he assured Wednesday, take care of it while there are still games to play.
“We’re at the point of the season where I need to be out on the field and playing,” he said, before a 12-3 victory over the Washington Nationals. “Nobody wants to hear me complain. Nobody wants to hear your excuses, not the media, not the fans, not the team.”
As for Joe Girardi, he is thankful Harper is offering no excuses.
“Bryce never wants to come out of the lineup,” the manager said. “It’s just who he is. He will never make an excuse for anything. He tries to grind through everything. There’s been times where I sat down with him and really didn’t give him a choice.
“But he has better days than others.”
As the designated hitter Wednesday, Harper had a good day, lacing two home runs and scoring three runs, helping the Phillies remain relevant in the playoff race with three games to play.
“I need to go out there and play to the best of my ability for the Philadelphia Phillies organization,” Harper said, “for my teammates and for the fans as well.”
Yet when J.T. Realmuto went public Tuesday with what many had come to believe, that Harper has a back issue, it was not a matter of whether Harper was injured, but for how long.
“I lose track,” Girardi said. “I am going to say it’s been four or five weeks. And it’s been off and on. He’s been getting treatment as needed. He pushes through it.”
Harper will require offseason rest, not surgery.
“It’s not something that will linger in the offseason,” he said. “I just need to get some rest and get back to full strength.”
That could include more designated hitter shifts and less right field time.
“If being the DH gets me two home runs every night, I’ll take it,” he said.
• • •
In the Phillies’ playoff push, lukewarm as it has been, Zach Eflin has been critical. That continued Wednesday when he pitched into the ninth, striking out nine and improving to 4-2. His previous start was a seven-inning complete game.
“I haven’t had an outing all year,” he said, “when I wasn’t on.”
The Phillies have won six of the last seven games Eflin has started.
“To be honest, I stopped throwing like a baby,” he said. “I am more aggressive now.”
Should the Phils make the playoffs, and should he not be pressed into emergency relief duty over the weekend in Tampa, Eflin would be the Game 1 starter.
“If so, I would do cartwheels,” Girardi said. “And that’s not pretty.”
• • •
Though Rhys Hoskins has been making gradual improvement from an elbow injury, Girardi says it remains unlikely that he will be reactivated this season.
“He took dry swings today,” Girardi said. “He was better today than yesterday. But he is not ready to hit.”
Hoskins has not played since Sept. 12. Surgery is likely.
“I do know that he said he felt better.” Girardi said, before acknowledging that it would be a “longshot” for the first baseman to play again this year.
• • •
On the injured list since Sept. 13 with right shoulder stiffness, Spencer Howard threw some batting practice Wednesday.
“I heard it went pretty well,” Girardi said. “We’ll have a much better idea of where he’s at when he wakes up tomorrow and sees how it feels.”
• • •
For a 33-year-old outfielder coming off season-ending knee surgery, Andrew McCutchen has had a satisfying season.
Though far from his MVP standard of 2013, he proved durable, has provided nine home runs and was able to produce as a designated hitter. He was 3-for-5 Wednesday with two doubles and a home run.
“When we saw him in spring training, there were some concerns and hurdles that he had to get over,” Girardi said. “He was not ready to go. And I have actually been pleased with how many games we have been able to get out of him.
With the Phillies committed to him through next season, McCutchen’s role is unlikely to change.
“It depends, with another year of recovery, where he is at,” Girardi said. “But I could see that.”
• • •
NOTES >> The Phillies are off Thursday. … In a critical three-game, season-ending series beginning Friday in Tampa, Girardi will start Vince Velasquez (1-1, 5.46 ERA) against right-hander Charlie Morton (2-2, 4.64), Zack Wheeler (4-1, 2.67) and Aaron Nola (5-4, 3.06). … Of Harper’s 13 home runs, six have come in the first inning.