(KYW Newsradio) — Phillies superstar Bryce Harper is out indefinitely with a fractured thumb — a true bummer to what's been an outstanding June for the ballclub.
"Obviously it's devastating for the Philadelphia Phillies," said Larry Bowa, franchise icon and senior advisor to the general manager.
But that isn't changing Bowa's belief there will and should be Red October.
"My expectations have not changed," Bowa said. "Not at all. We're gonna be in the playoffs."
And not only that, he says. As far as the National League East, Bowa insisted nothing is out of reach. “No … as long as the numbers say they're not out of reach."
Before the season, Bowa told 94WIP he wouldn't be surprised if the Phillies made the World Series after adding big bats Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos. Then, speaking with KYW Newsradio, he doubled down by adding he'd be surprised if the Phils missed the playoffs.
They have missed the playoffs for the past 10 seasons.
Hear the full conversation with Larry Bowa
Part of the reason for Bowa's unwavering optimism is the team's roster. At the same time, he says, he has noticed other Major League Baseball teams — the Braves, the Dodgers, the Mets — have continued to win despite being down key players at various times this season.
"So, I'm upset that we're not going to have Bryce, but I'm not at all upset when people say, 'Oh, the season's over.' The season's far from over. We're very much alive in this thing," Bowa said.
The Phils are alive, back in the race after a tremendous June, in which they've gone 18-6. Harper was tearing it up before taking a 97 mph Blake Snell heater to his left thumb Saturday night. The team is knocking on the door of one of the three National League Wild Card positions, yet staying in the hunt will definitely be more of a challenge with Harper out.
Left fielder Kyle Schwarber has been unreal, with 10 of his 21 home runs in June, so he wasn't on Bowa's mind when he was considering who needs to step up with Harper out. Bowa turned to other guys who are making a lot of money on this Phillies team that haven't been producing like Harper and Schwarber.
"There's two of them, in my opinion, and there's no doubt in my mind they will [step up] because their track record speaks for itself and that's [Nick] Castellanos and J.T. [Realmuto.]"
Castellanos has cooled off after a hot start to the season, hitting .231 in June with zero home runs. A possible positive sign is he went 4-for-5 as the Phils’ designated hitter in the first game, with Harper on the injured list. Thomson is expected to rotate guys into the DH role to give them rest, but Castellanos had the first crack.
Realmuto, meanwhile, has a batting average of only .218 in June with a .295 on base percentage. Their numbers have certainly been underwhelming.
Nonetheless, Bowa said, "I really believe that they are going to have a great second half."
In the coming weeks, there could be a decent amount of public debate over what the Phils should do prior to the Aug. 2 trade deadline. With that deadline still more than a month away, Bowa indicated it's too early to say how Harper's injury will affect President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski’s decision. He does know, though, that sitting out is not part of Harper’s DNA.
"It's killing him,” said Bowa. “This guy loves baseball. He was born to be a big leaguer. He's had all this publicity since he's been in high school. He's lived up to the hype. He's done everything you can do on a baseball field with the exception of win a World Series. And I know that's No. 1 on his agenda right. … This is really hurting him.
"I wouldn't put anything past Bryce. If somebody says it's six to eight weeks, maybe it's five weeks. I'm not a doctor. I don't know the severity of the injury. But knowing Bryce, he'll try to get back on the field as quick as he possibly can.”