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August 23, 2022

Bryce Harper Watch: Triple-A rehab assignment starts off with a bang

Harper homered twice and walked twice in his first rehab game with Triple-A Lehigh Valley

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Bryce-Harper-Home-Run-Phillies-Braves-5.24.22-mlb.jpg Dale Zanine/USA TODAY Sports

Bryce Harper will return to the Phillies ahead of schedule.

ALLENTOWN, PA. –  Bryce Harper is one step closer to returning to the Phillies and aiding them in their postseason push.

The reigning NL MVP and the club's top hitter began his rehab assignment with Triple-A Lehigh Valley Tuesday night as part of the recovery from his broken left thumb and will take at-bats throughout the IronPigs' series against the Braves-affiliated Gwinnett until Saturday. 

On Sunday, he'll rest, then he and the Phillies will lock in the return date, which could be as soon as next week's series out in Arizona. 

But the road back all started with Tuesday night at Coca-Cola Park, when Harper, batting second in the order, made five plate appearances in a 10-5 IronPigs victory.

How'd he do? 

Well, a two-homer, two-walk night is definitely about as good of a return to the plate as you could ask for.

"It feels good," Harper said postgame. "Just happy to get back out on the field and be around baseball again. Run the bases, see pitches, and attack when I need to."

And man, did he attack.

Here's a breakdown of each plate appearance:

Plate Appearance No. 1 (Bottom of the 1st, No on, 1 out): His first at-bat since suffering the broken thumb, Harper worked a 2-2 count then launched one into the right-field concourse for a solo shot, because of course he did. 

Are you sure he has to wait until potentially Monday?

"We're gonna take it one day at a time," Harper said. "Understanding that tonight was great, right? But at the same time, I need the at-bats, I need to be able to see pitches, see different guys, different angles, understanding how my body's gonna react, what my thumb's gonna be like, and just try to go from there."

Plate appearance No. 2 (Bottom of the 3rd, No on, 1 out): Harper walked on a 3-1 count (five pitches) with Gwinnett starter Jared Shuster struggling to locate the zone. The lone strike was fouled off. Harper advanced to second when right fielder Dustin Peterson walked in the next at-bat, then got a jump during first baseman Johan Camargo's plate appearance but was caught stealing. 

Plate appearance No. 3 (Bottom of the 5th, No on, 2 out): Harper fell into an 0-2 count after fouling off the first two pitches from Gwinnett reliever Darren O'Day, then grounded out into the shift, with second baseman Taylor Motter fielding the ball in the outfield grass, to end the frame. 

Plate appearance No. 4 (Bottom of the 7th, 1 on, No out): After centerfielder Dalton Guthrie drew a walk to begin the frame, Harper stepped up to the plate against righthander Tyler Ferguson. Guthrie stole second, and in a full count, Harper drew another walk. He advanced to second on Peterson's single to center, then tagged up and reached third on a sac fly from Camargo. 

After left fielder Chris Sharpe walked to load the bases, catcher Rafael Marchan sent a ground ball into left field, and Harper scored as part of a two-run single and a three-run rally. That was it for the night.

Plate appearance No. 5 (Bottom of the 8th, 2 on, No out): OR WAS IT? The IronPigs made it far enough through the order to set up Harper for one more at-bat in the eighth, so he stayed in for one more. 

And he crushed it opposite field with two on. Three-run homer. 

Harper's final line for the night: 2-for-3, two homers, two walks, 4 RBIs, and three runs scored in five PAs. 

Definitely not bad for the first game back in nearly two months, but he stressed that more reps are still needed.

"Just seeing pitches, that's all we can come in here and do," Harper said.

Fair enough. Four more rehab games to go.

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