The question on everyone’s mind was, When is Bryce Harper Coming Back? Now we know. It’s tomorrow.
Bryce Harper has been cleared to hit the field at Dodger Stadium this Tuesday, ready to play ball! After a Monday morning medical check-up in Los Angeles, Harper received the green light to take part in the game as a designated hitter, a source confirmed. Just 160 days post a reconstructive surgery on a torn ligament in his right elbow, using a tendon from his wrist, the iconic power hitter and Phillies’ cornerstone is making a stunningly early return, surpassing the initial “by the All-Star break” prediction.
Take a minute to digest this: Harper’s comeback from this elbow operation, widely known as Tommy John surgery, is faster than any MLB player in history. The previous record was held by Cardinals infielder Tony Womack, who made it back in 182 days back in 2004.
“It’s kind of unbelievable to even consider returning at this point in the season since it’s never happened before. When we first discussed it, it was the All-Star break. To be thinking about coming back before the All-Star break is like icing on the cake,” Harper shared with The Inquirer a couple of weeks ago.
Upon arriving at spring training in Clearwater, Florida, on March 9, both Bryce Harper and the Phillies held firm to their initial timeline. Just two weeks ago, Harper emphasized that his priority was to return safely rather than hastily.
As time passed, however, Harper’s elbow showed excellent progress while swinging the bat, first without making contact with the ball, then hitting off a tee and soft tosses, and eventually during batting practice and facing live pitching.
Two factors played to Harper’s advantage: First, he’s a left-handed hitter, meaning his right elbow, the one that underwent surgery, experiences less stress while swinging. Additionally, unlike previous outfielders such as Carl Crawford (221 days), Luis Gonzalez (246 days), and Jay Buhner (202 days) who recovered from Tommy John surgery, Harper can return to a hitter-only position.
“Knowing how competitive [Harper] is, I’m sure he wants to be out in the field. But having that DH role certainly helps,” Gonzalez said in a phone call back in December. “You’re talking about someone like Bryce Harper. His mere presence in the lineup makes a massive impact.”
Instead of opting for a minor league assignment, Harper has already faced about 50 at-bats against live pitching, including No. 3 starter Ranger Suárez, who is also recovering from an elbow injury.
“It’s going to require some adaptation on my part,” Bryce Harper admitted recently. “I’m going to try to keep things as normal as possible, but we need to be mindful of how I slide and how I recover from fatigue. This is a major surgery—it’s no joke. I’m not just trying to be the quickest to return; I want to be smart about it too. I don’t want to be reckless.”
How Are The Phillies Doing?
During the 29 games without Harper, the 15-14 Phillies lead the league in hits (273) and rank second in batting average (.272) and fourth in slugging (.444) and OPS (.771). However, they’ve only managed to score the seventh-highest number of runs (126) in the National League.