The Phillies are getting Bryce Harper back much sooner than expected after Tommy John surgery, putting the rest of the NL East on warning.
Tommy John surgery was supposed to keep Bryce Harper out until the All-Star break. That projection just didn’t account for the Phillies star being more-than-human.
On Tuesday, Harper will make his 2023 season debut, 160 days since undergoing surgery to repair the torn UCL in his right elbow.
News of Harper’s historic injury return comes courtesy of Jeff Passan of ESPN, who reported that doctors cleared Harper on Monday.
Harper is now expected to play against the Dodgers as a designated hitter.
Bryce Harper cleared for return for Phillies vs. Dodgers
Phillies fans can expect Harper to stay in that DH role before stepping in at first base instead of his normal place in the outfield.
The team needs help at first given Rhys Hoskin’s season-ending ACL injury. Even though Harper has never played there, he has enough of a skillset to at least experiment there, especially since that position will put less strain on the recovery of his arm.
The Phillies enter May at 15-14 and sitting in fourth place in the AL East. They’re only 4.5 games behind the first-place Braves though, so the boost of getting Harper back early could heat up the competition in the division.
Of course, Harper needs to prove that he gain regain his form from the end of last season. Despite playing through his elbow injury, he slashed .349/.414/.746 in the playoffs with an OPS of 1.160. He had six home runs and 13 RBI in 17 postseason games as Philadelphia ultimately came up just short in the World Series.
That kind of productivity from Harper in May would give the Phillies the leg up they need.