Initially expected to be out until at least the MLB All-Star Break following offseason Tommy John surgery, Phillies star Bryce Harper believes he could return to lineup even sooner.
“Trying to leave that door open, just in case. If it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen. If it does, then great. Right? I think it’s just because I’m feeling good right now,” Harper said via MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki.
“Like I told you guys at the beginning of camp, it could be after [the All-Star break], it could be before. If things keep progressing the way they are, then I feel good about [Dombrowski] saying what he did. If I have something that happens, then we’re pretty much on track for where we are.”
Earlier this week, Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said the team wouldn’t place Harper on the 60-day IL to start 2023, leaving the door open for a potential late-May comeback.
Harper was cleared for “dry swings” in February. He progressed to hitting off a tee and taking soft-toss hacks at the plate every other day, nearly a month ahead of his initial timetable.
While Harper may want to push it to get back on the field as soon as possible, the Phillies must be smart with how they handle the situation. They don’t want rush him back and risk another injury.
Last season, Harper was relegated to the designated hitter role from May onward. With Kyle Schwarber, Nick Castellanos and Brandon Marsh filling the outfield and first baseman Darick Hall capable of manning DH, the Phillies should be able to make do without Harper again until he’s ready to go.
The torn UCL in Harper’s right elbow didn’t seem to impact him at the plate in 2022. Limited to only 99 regular-season games last season, Harper still had a solid year, hitting .286 with 18 home runs and 65 RBI.
In the postseason, Harper was dominant. Over 17 playoff games, Harper batted .349 with six home runs and 13 RBI, earning NLCS MVP honors during the Phillies remarkable run to the World Series.
With the addition of star shortstop Trea Turner, when Harper does return, the Phillies will have arguably one of the most fearsome lineups in all of MLB.
Phillies star Bryce Harper. Photo courtsey of The Philadelphia Inquirer