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April 11, 2023

Rob Thomson says Bryce Harper looks ready to hit, but sliding remains the problem

Thomson said Harper looks ready to hit again, but sliding remains the key hurdle to clear in the NLCS MVP's rehab from Tommy John surgery and his return back to the lineup.

If you ask Rob Thomson, Bryce Harper is probably ready to hit in a minor-league game at least, but it's everything else he would have to do at the plate and on the bases that remains the hangup in his rehab from Tommy John surgery. 

"I would say yes," the Phillies' manager said Tuesday of whether Harper can take a live at-bat. "He's done a lot of hitting."

But he's still far from out of the woods. 

Prior to the Phillies' second of three against the Marlins down at Citizens Bank Park, Thomson said Harper took ground balls, did some modified sliding, had some high-velocity machine work in the cage, and then came out to the field to hit off the breaking-ball machine. 

He's looking good, and trending upward, but what could happen if he had to slide remains the real danger to the NLCS MVP's reconstructed elbow. He needs to be fully healed and cleared by his doctors before he can be safely put in that situation again. 

"The other stuff's fine," Thomson said (via KYW's Dave Uram). "Once he gets on base, we put a brace on him. But it's if he hits a double, we can't hand the brace off as he turns around first base, so that's really where it gets dangerous." 

And it's why Harper and the Phillies will continue to take their time. 

Harper started taking batting practice again last week when the Phillies were up in the Bronx to face the Yankees, and he continued to do so when the club returned to South Philadelphia for their home-opening series against the Reds. 

After undergoing the reconstructive surgery of his UCL in late November, the Phillies' initial estimate for Harper's return was around the All-Star break midsummer, and that would only be as the designated hitter. 

MORE: Bryson Stott's hitting streak ignites Phillies

The Phils haven't moved off that general timeframe but with the decision to place him on the 10-day injured list instead of the 60-day to start the season, they did leave the possibility open for a sooner-than-expected return. 

That being said, that's only the extreme best-case scenario. 

"Still got a minute to go," Harper told ESPN (via NBC Sports Philadelphia) during the opening series against Texas. "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."

MORE: Rhys Hoskins isn't ruling out a late-October return

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