Masataka Yoshida's return to Red Sox resurfaces hilarious Bryce Harper obsession

Philadelphia Phillies v Boston Red Sox
Philadelphia Phillies v Boston Red Sox / Jaiden Tripi/GettyImages

The Boston Red Sox played for a month without their everyday designated hitter, Masataka Yoshida. The Nippon Professional Baseball veteran dealt with a complicated thumb strain that took multiple doctor visits to diagnose.

Yoshida returned to the depleted Red Sox roster on June 11 to face the Philadelphia Phillies. He walked once but didn't register a hit in his first game back with the big league squad.

Yoshida usually needs a few games to hit his stride after a long break, but the DH was on a hot streak before his injury — he's batting .471/.571/.706 in his last seven games.

Boston's manager Alex Cora didn't expect Yoshida to be available so soon. He told the media that July 13 would be the earliest date for his return to action, but the lefty slugger made it back two days early.

Yoshida may have been motivated to join the Red Sox sooner than expected for reasons fans didn't realize — his favorite MLB player is Phillies star Bryce Harper.

Masataka Yoshida returned to the Red Sox lineup just in time to play against Bryce Harper

The two players met for the first time last year when the Sox and Phillies faced off in Philadelphia on May 6. Harper gifted Yoshida a pair of signed green spikes and a game-used bat from the NLDS.

Despite baseball's popularity in Japan, reaching MLB is still the pinnacle of baseball achievement for players. Before Japan's World Baseball Classic final matchup against the United States, Shohei Ohtani gave a pep talk that included the names of Mike Trout and Mookie Betts.

"Let’s stop admiring them," he said. "If you admire them, you can’t surpass them. We came here to surpass them, to reach the top. For one day, let’s throw away our admiration for them and just think about winning."

Yoshida and Harper are a year apart in age, but Yoshida's admiration for the slugger has held strong. He told Ian Browne of that he became a fan of Harper during the final year of his college career in Japan. Yoshida named his French bulldog "Harper" in his idol's honor and his Instagram handle — "bh_masataka34" — contains Harper's initials and jersey number from his seven seasons with the Nationals.

Yoshida didn't play in Boston's second game against Philly on June 12, but he's in the starting lineup for the series finale. The Red Sox and Phillies don't play each other often, and Yoshida should take every chance to battle against his favorite player.

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