Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Bryce Harper injury update: Phillies not ruling out earlier return as reigning MVP crushes Triple-A pitching

Phillies superstar and reigning NL MVP Bryce Harper has only played two games on his minor-league rehab assignment, but he sure seems ready to return to the majors. 

On Tuesday, for Triple-A Lehigh Valley, Harper went 2 for 3 with two walks, two home runs and four RBI. Wednesday, he was 3 for 5 with two doubles and two RBI. Oh, and he walked it off: 

While the IronPigs surely would love to see Harper hang around as long as possible, his .625/.700/1.625 line through two games suggests his thumb is 100 percent. 

It was June 25 when Harper took an errant pitch off his left thumb, fracturing it. He needed surgery to repair it and the Phillies eventually placed him on the 60-day disabled list. His season was in jeopardy, though most agreed he’d be able to return sometime in September. Maybe the middle of the month. A few weeks ago, then, the news update was that Harper’s thumb was healing quickly and Sept. 1 was the target. 

Now, it feels like he’ll be back even sooner than that. When asked about Harper’s first game, Phillies manager Rob Thomson said this coming weekend was a possibility. 

“A possibility, yeah, it just depends on how he feels,” Thomson said (via trentonian.com). “But that was pretty impressive last night. He did a lot of base running last night. I didn’t ask him but he’s probably pretty sore. He tried to steal third base.”

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That was before Harper went 3 for 5 and played the whole game at designated hitter. Remember, a lot of times these rehab stints start out with players only taking a few at-bats and playing the first 3-5 innings. He’s already played two full games and has looked like himself. 

Now, Harper was on the 60-day injured list, so those 60 days must expire before he’s eligible to be activated. The 60th day was Wednesday. 

The Phillies play at home Thursday night against the Reds and that isn’t too far away from Lehigh Valley. Harper could, in theory, be activated Thursday. Maybe the Phillies wait until Friday, when they host the Pirates, starting a three-game series. 

Regardless, it won’t be long. They might not wait until Monday, as the originally-planned best-case scenario.

Harper will remain at DH, as he has an injured elbow and can’t throw. In 64 games at the big-league level this season, he’s hitting .318/.385/.599 (171 OPS+) with 21 doubles, a triple, 15 homers, 48 RBI, 49 runs, nine steals and 2.6 WAR. 

The Phillies have actually played well since his injury. They are 31-20 after he went down, putting them 69-55 on the season and in the second NL wild card slot. They are two games ahead of the Padres for the second spot and 3 1/2 clear of the Brewers, meaning they still have a fight just to make the playoffs. 

Getting Harper back is a big boost prior to the last month, and it seems like it’ll happen sooner than anyone would’ve thought. 

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