The Philadelphia Phillies are shaking up their struggling offense in an atypical fashion.
The team's $330 million slugger, Bryce Harper, was moved into the leadoff spot for the Thursday night game against the Washington Nationals.
Philadelphia manager Gabe Kapler opted for the maneuver with his team averaging just 3.9 runs during a 6-12 stretch. The club has struggled at the top of the order since Andrew McCutchen sustained a season-ending knee injury on June 3, batting just .115 with a .220 on-base percentage in the leadoff spot.
Perhaps the move will jolt Harper as well, as he was batting just .243 with 12 homers and 49 RBIs through Wednesday. Another power hitter, Rhys Hoskins, was set to bat second against Washington.
"The thought process is we feel like we're a more successful club when we see pitches in the first inning," Kapler told reporters before Thursday's game. "It doesn't mean we have to get hits. It just means that we see some pitches.
"By having Harper and Hoskins at the top of the lineup, they don't have to do anything different other than be who they normally are. And if that happens, we're likely to see more pitches in the first inning."
Harper said he was fine with the move. He led off 12 times for the Nationals last season and batted .217 in 46 at-bats during those games. Overall, he had led off 28 times in his career entering Thursday's contest.
"I've done it in years past," Harper told reporters. "I mean, you lead off once during a game. More at-bats, which I like. (Kapler) asked me if I was comfortable with it, and I said, 'Yeah, no problem.' Just take it like any other at-bat, see some pitches and get on base."
Philadelphia had lost three straight games and seven of nine entering the Thursday contest.
--Field Level Media