Wearing a tan suit and flanked by two Las Vegas showgirls, Bryce Harper raised a microphone to his mouth with his left hand and issued the command, “Drivers, start your engines!”
He raised his right index finger and mimicked turning a car key. With that, Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race got under way at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in Harper’s hometown.
On Wednesday, Harper will report to Clearwater, Florida, to start his spring training, which has been delayed as the Philadelphia Phillies slugger recovers from reconstructive surgery on his right elbow. How quickly he can rev it up is to be determined.
The two-time National League MVP had surgery on Nov. 23, one month after sending the Phillies to the World Series with a dramatic two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth inning in Game 5 of the NL Championship Series against the San Diego Padres.
Following his surgery, the Phillies said Harper was expected to return to the lineup as designated hitter by the All-Star break and could return to playing right field by the end of the regular season.
The 30-year-old Harper will have some catching up to do when he arrives in Florida. His teammates have been adjusting to the new pitch clock, part of Major League Baseball’s efforts to speed up the game.
“It’s going to be a different game, of course, especially with myself and a lot of guys that have been playing for a long time,” Harper said during a news conference at the speedway. “It’s going to be different to see baseball on a time clock, but it’s something we’re going to have to adapt to. We’ll see what happens going forward. I look forward to kind of progressing in that how and when I can.”
He injured his elbow in April and last played right field on April 16. He had a platelet-rich plasma injection in May and became a full-time designated hitter to finish the season, helping lead the Phillies to their first World Series since 2009.
They lost to the Houston Astros in six games, but Harper had an outstanding postseason, batting .349 with six homers and 13 RBIs in 17 games.
Harper also missed time last year with a broken left thumb after he was hit by a pitch from San Diego’s Blake Snell in late June.
RAYS MOURN WILLS
The Tampa Bay Rays mourned the death Sunday of Dave Wills, 58, who was the team’s radio announcer for the past 18 years. There was no radio broadcast of the team’s game against Baltimore.
“Dave was an outstanding broadcaster, a great friend and an even better person,” Rays owner Stuart Sternberg said. “He had a remarkable talent for bringing the game to life for our fans and was a vital part of the Rays family. We will miss him dearly and our thoughts and prayers are with his family and loved ones during this difficult time.”
Wills called some of the most memorable moments in Rays history, including the team’s runs to the World Series in 2008 and 2020.
NO DISCIPLINE FOR CLEVINGER
MLMB said it won’t discipline Chicago White Sox right-hander Mike Clevinger after completing its investigation into domestic abuse allegations. The commissioner’s office said in a statement its investigation included interviews of more than 15 people, including Clevinger and a woman who said she is the mother of Clevinger’s child, as well as thousands of electronic communications and other documents.
Clevinger has agreed to submit to evaluations by the joint treatment boards under the collective bargaining agreement and to follow any recommendations, according to the statement.
“I had nothing to hide and cooperated fully with MLB,” Clevinger said in a statement released by the players’ union. “This situation has been stressful for my family, and I thank them for their strength and support. I asked everyone not to rush to judgment until MLB’s investigation was concluded, and I appreciate everyone who had faith in me, including the White Sox organization and my teammates.”
The 32-year-old Clevinger finalized a $12 million, one-year contract with Chicago in December. MLB’s probe predates his agreement with the White Sox. Clevinger pitched for Cleveland from 2016 until being traded to the San Diego Padres during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.
Arizona Diamondbacks left-hander Madison Bumgarner spent his first Cactus League outing experimenting with the PitchCom device. He allowed two runs on two hits in three innings.
Bumgarner wore the pitch-calling device on his belt but will try it in his glove next time.
“I liked calling my own pitches. We kind of split it up,” Bumgarner said, referring to catcher Gabriel Moreno. “The next time might be a little easier. I wish we had a microphone where we could talk to each other. That would be perfect, I think.”
Bumgarner, heading into his 15th big league season, said the pitch clock is just another element he has to get used to.
“I think it will get smoother and smoother,” Bumgarner said. “However many years I’ve been here, this has got to be the most changes. Everybody is playing by the same rules but the pitch clock is probably the one I like the best.”
The Detroit Tigers and right-hander Trevor Rosenthal agreed to terms of a minor league deal that includes an invite to big league spring training. Rosenthal has missed most of the last two seasons due to injury. In his most recent big league action in 2020, he appeared in 23 games between Kansas City and San Diego, going a 1-0 with 11 saves and a 1.90 ERA.