The Dodgers took heat for not aggressively pursuing free agent Bryce Harper after the 2018 season. They were flush with money from their TV deal and had yet to splurge on the likes of mookie Betts, Trevor Bauer and Freddy Freeman.
They made Harper an 11th-hour offer of about $160 million over four years, but the outfielder opted to sign with the Philadelphia Phillies for $330 million over 13 years.
Not that the Dodgers regret failing to reel in Harper, not after winning a World Series in 2020 and having stacks of cash to spend on the likes of Betts and Freeman (let’s leave Bauer, ahem, out of the equation).
Harper was the National League MVP last season, but the Phillies haven’t come close to matching the Dodgers in the win column despite their own spending spree.
Until the last three nights.
Harper hit a three-run home run in the third inning of the Phillies’ 8-3 victory Saturday after triggering a three-run rally in the first with a two-out double against Julio Urías that was followed by Justin Turner’s error and Jean Segura’s home run.
In his 12 at-bats in the series that concludes Sunday, Harper has three home runs and four doubles, driving in eight runs. Oh, and he bunted for a single in his last at-bat.
All while nursing a small tear in the ulnar collateral ligament of his elbow that has him restricted to designated-hitter duty.
“He’s an incredibly talented player,” Urías said. “You have to give him a lot of credit.”
Before touching the plate after his homer Saturday, he pointed an appreciative finger at agent Scott Boras seated in the front row at Dodger Stadium. By the time his contract expires after the 2031 season, Harper will have been paid $390 million over 20 years.
“Bryce Harper plays hard every day and he’s certainly swinging the bat well right now,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said.
Harper’s teammates took his cue for a third victory in a row. Urías gave up four home runs in the first four innings and eight runs overall – the most homers and runs he has ever given up.
Warm temperatures all three nights allowed flyballs to carry. It was 81 degrees Saturday at game time.
“The air is light, not much moisture in the air and both sides haven’t made good pitches,” Roberts said.
Arguably the worst pitches came from Dodgers starters Urías, Walker Buehler and Tyler Anderson, who combined to give up 20 runs in 17 innings.
Treinen missing ‘trust’: Blake Treinen’s mystery shoulder ailment came no closer to being explained despite the best efforts of the Dodgers’ high-leverage reliever Saturday.
Treinen hasn’t pitched in a month and it’s likely to be at least another two months before he pitches again. Why?
“Honestly, I feel really good right now,” he said. “It’s not something that’s causing a lot of discomfort. It’s more of a conviction thing. I’m taking it day by day to get myself right. When the conviction comes back and I can start throwing, we’ll go from there.”
Treinen is sorely missed, especially while the Dodgers are in the midst of playing 31 games in 30 days. Yet he isn’t willing to even pick up a baseball for fear that the pain he experienced in mid-April will return.
“The reason I’m on the [injured list] is that when I was throwing there was some trust issues, so for now we’re just trying to build my strength back so I can contribute to the team,” he said.
Meet Michael Grove: At first glance, Michael Grove might seem an odd choice to make his major league debut Sunday, just as he looked like an odd choice for the Dodgers to draft in the second round in 2018.
But sure enough, the Dodgers are expected to employ him as the starter or bulk reliever in the series finale with the Phillies.
Grove, 25, was 13 months removed from Tommy John surgery when the Dodgers drafted him out of West Virginia. And in 139 minor league innings, he has posted an ERA of 6.60, giving up 27 home runs among 157 hits.
But he has been effective in five starts this season with double-A Tulsa, striking out 22 and walking five in 16 1/3 innings.
Grove also has Roberts in his corner.
“I like Michael, he’s a competitor,” Roberts said. “He’s got a fastball in the mid 90s, a 12-6 old-school curve and there’s a changeup in there. …He’s just really matured. A really, good competitor, a good guy.”
Grove would be the second Dodgers pitcher to make his debut in a week. Ryan Pepiot threw three scoreless innings despite allowing seven baserunners Wednesday against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.