April 05, 2023
Another day brings another key step in Bryce Harper's recovery from Tommy John surgery.
Per multiple beats, Phillies manager Rob Thomson said the superstar slugger took batting practice for the first time Tuesday up in the Bronx, taking pitches from hitting coach Kevin Long, and will do so again on Thursday ahead of the club's home opener against the Reds.
Harper, the 2021 NL MVP and 2022 NLCS MVP, still has a long way to go before he can return to the Phillies' lineup, but all things considered, the rehab process from a repaired ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow seems to be moving along well – possibly ahead of schedule even.
The status of his health doesn't seem to be a matter of being able to swing the bat either, rather what could happen when he gets on base.
”He feels great,” Thomson said (via The Philadelphia Inquirer's Alex Coffey). “And it’s not hitting that we’re concerned about. It’s sliding. We’ve got to get clearance from the doctor on that one first. If he slides headfirst he could rupture (the elbow). And then we’re back to square one.”
So no rush.
Still, the progress is promising.
During Sunday night's 2-1 loss to the Rangers down in Arlington, Harper said on the ESPN broadcast that he had returned to his routine in the batting cage about a week and a half before, with Thomson adding that it was likely Harper would begin hitting from the field again when the club returned to Philadelphia on Thursday.
The Phillies' initial estimate for Harper's return following the surgery in late November was to have him back as the designated hitter around the All-Star break this summer, but the decision not to place him on the 60-day injured list to begin the season lent hope to the idea that he could be back sooner.
It kept their options open at the very least, but Harper's health is the priority above all else. They're not going to rush.
"Still got a minute to go," he told ESPN (via NBC Sports Philadelphia). "Just trying to be smart about it, understanding my good days are going to be good and some days I'll just be sore and it'll be a little tougher. But I feel good right now, just got to keep that going and keep doing the same stuff."
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