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August 09, 2022

Phillies notes: Bryce Harper not ready for live pitching, J.T. Realmuto joins World Baseball Classic

Harper hasn't regained enough flexibility in his thumb. His throwing program was also dialed back due to elbow stiffness

Bryce Harper is progressing in his recovery from a broken thumb but isn't ready to face live pitching.

Per NBC Sports Philadelphia's Corey Seidman, Harper's flexibility in his thumb still isn't there yet and he's experiencing some stiffness in his right elbow, which has the small UCL tear that's kept him as a designated hitter for the bulk of the season. 

He's still hitting off a tee for now and the Phillies are easing up on his throwing program

Harper has been out since June 25 when an errant pitch from San Diego's Blake Snell ran high and inside and caught his left thumb. 

The thumb needed to be surgically repaired, which meant the Phillies had to go for the long haul without their best hitter and the reigning NL MVP, a devastating blow to their playoff hopes at the time.

Harper, however, vowed to return this season, and the Phillies have managed thanks to a 20-11 run since the start of July. With Rhys Hoskins, J.T. Realmuto, and more recently Nick Castellanos picking up the slack at the plate, the Phils are 9-1 in their last 10 games, 60-48 overall, and gained a hold of the NL's second wild card spot following a four-game sweep of the Nationals this past weekend. 

Still, they're going to need their best bat in the lineup as the playoff push marches down to the wire. 

The pins were removed from Harper's thumb last Monday and he resumed his throwing program a couple of days later, which was a hopeful sign that he would not only return to the lineup soon but in right field as well.

“There’s no guarantee of that, but we’re hoping that that’s how it plays out,” interim manager Rob Thomson told the Philadelphia Inquirer's Scott Lauber last Wednesday. “We’ll work that throwing program, progress him out to where he can throw 100% — or close to it — and then we can get him out there.”

While Tuesday's news is a setback, Thomson said prior to the night's series opener against Miami that he still expects Harper to be back this season. 

"No doubt about it," he told Lauber.

Realmuto joins Team USA

J.T. Realmuto will backstop on the world stage.

The Phillies catcher was announced as a member of Team USA's roster on Tuesday for the 2023 World Baseball Classic, which is set for next March across several parks in the U.S., Tokyo, and Taiwan.

Realmuto joins the Angels' Mike Trout, the Cardinals' Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado, and the Red Sox' Trevor Story as the confirmed Team USA members so far.

The U.S. won the last World Baseball Classic in 2017 and will look to defend its title after what will be a six-year break by then. Since 2009, the tournament was built to be played every four years, but the COVID-19 pandemic and this year's MLB lockout put the usual schedule on hold.

When they do return, the U.S. will have the popularly known "Best Catcher in Baseball" running their battery.

Realmuto, 31, struggled through the first half of the season but rediscovered his bat in July – much like the rest of the Phillies – hitting .358 with five home runs, four doubles, 17 RBIs, and a 1.065 OPS. So far into August, he's hitting .278 with two more homers and a towering 1.111 OPS.

The World Baseball Classic will run from March 8-21. Team USA will begin play on the 11th in Pool C at Arizona's Chase Field against Mexico, Columbia, Canada, and a qualifying seed. 

You can check out the full tournament format over at HERE.

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