Phillies say Bryce Harper could return Tuesday at Dodgers

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Monday, May 1, 2023

Philadelphia Phillies starBryce Harper will have his reconstructed right elbow examined Monday in Los Angeles, and if cleared, he is expected to make his season debut Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium, according to manager Rob Thomson.

The two-time National League MVP underwent Tommy John surgeryNov. 23. The procedure was performed by Los Angeles-based Dr. Neal ElAttrache, who Harper will visit Monday morning for a scheduled follow-up appointment. If given the OK, Harper would return to the Phillies' lineup as their designated hitter Tuesday against theDodgers.

Harper's recovery will have taken just 160 days, the fastest return on record by a major league player from Tommy John surgery, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

When he originally had the surgery, the Phillies offered an estimated timetable of sometime near the All-Star break. Harper, however, appeared to be well ahead of that projection, with the team expressing optimism earlier this month that he could return in May.

"He's pretty geeked up about getting out there and playing," Thomson said before the Phillies played theAstroson Sunday night in Houston. "He's itching."

Thomson later specified during the "Sunday Night Baseball" telecast that all Harper needs is clearance from ElAttrache to slide headfirst.

The Phillies open a three-game series at the Dodgers on Monday night. Thomson said that even if Harper -- who has been facing live pitching for a few weeks -- is cleared, he will not be activated ahead of Monday night's game.

Harper's return will come at DH, so he doesn't have to use his arm throwing balls from the outfield.The team has also been working him out at first base in case he can return to the field there at some point this season, though outfield play has mostly been ruled out for 2023.

"Amazing," Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said of Harper's recovery. "He's absolutely amazing. He's a great athlete. He works hard. He's focused. He wants to get back. I mean, it's amazing what he's accomplished. We have that next step [with the doctor to clear him]. But the progress he's made is phenomenal."

Harper won MVP in 2015 with the Washington Nationals and in 2021 with the Phillies. In four seasons since signing a megadeal with Philadelphia in February 2019, Harper has batted .282 with 101 home runs and 296 RBIs. He has a career .280 batting average and a .523 slugging percentage with 285 homers and 817 RBIs in 1,382 career games over 11 major league seasons.

Harper played in 99 games last season and was named an All-Star for the seventh time. He was diagnosed with a partially torn UCL in his throwing arm in May and played through it -- again as a DH. He also suffered a fractured thumb and missed most of July and August following surgery. He came back in time for the stretch run and helped the Phillies reach the World Series, where they fell to the Astros. He batted .286 for the season with 18 home runs, 28 doubles and 65 RBIs.

The Phillies could certainly use Harper's bat. Entering Sunday, they ranked 18th in MLB in runs per game (4.39) and tied for 16th in homers (31). Last season, the Phillies ranked in the top 10 in MLB in both categories (sixth in homers, seventh in scoring).

Information from The Associated Press and Reuters was included in this report.

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