CLEVELAND — Star slugger Bryce Harper is making his first start at first base Friday night for the Philadelphia Phillies, who want to see if he can handle the position before they make any moves ahead of the trade deadline.

The defending National League champions enter the weekend 10½ games out of first place in the NL East but in the thick of the wild-card race.

Harper, who has made a quick recovery from Tommy John surgery last year, has played 1,258 games and made two previous appearances at first, in 2018 and 2021. Usually an outfielder, Harper has yet to play defense this year while his elbow recovers.

Philadelphia manager Rob Thomson has been toying with the move with Harper for some time and finally made the decision before the Phillies opened a three-game series against the Cleveland Guardians.

A two-time league MVP and seven-time All-Star, Harper is batting .295 with four homers and 26 RBI in 63 games.