Outfielder and future first baseman Bryce Harper has reportedly been cleared to return to the Philadelphia Phillies a mere 159 days after he underwent Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.
Only 159 days after Tommy John surgery, two-time MVP Bryce Harper has been cleared to play by the Philadelphia Phillies, sources tell ESPN. A remarkable recovery, shattering expectations he’d return in July. He's expected to be in the lineup starting at designated hitter Tuesday.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) May 1, 2023
The Phillies told the media Sunday that Harper would be examined by Dr. Neil ElAttrache on Monday morning in Los Angeles, and if cleared, he would likely be in the lineup for Tuesday night's game against the Dodgers.
The speed of Harper's return is unprecedented. Tommy John surgery, which is vastly more common for pitchers, involves the reconstruction of the ulnar collateral ligament in the elbow. It typically takes pitchers about a year to recover to the point that they can throw again in a big-league game. The recovery time is shorter for non-pitchers (since they're not usually throwing baseballs at or above 90 mph), and the Phillies originally estimated that Harper would be back around the All-Star break.
Harper will be used as the designated hitter for the time being and will wear padding on his elbow when he hits, but he has been working out at first base since the middle of April. When he's cleared to start throwing regularly again (which will take a bit of time), it's likely he'll be used there.
First base involves a lot less throwing than right field (Harper's natural position), and with Rhys Hoskins lost for the year due to a knee injury, the position is open. The Phillies would probably rather have baseball super-robot Bryce Harper take over than continue to use a combination of third baseman Alec Bohm, catcher J.T. Realmuto and bench player Kody Clemens.
The Phillies got off to an ice-cold start, winning just five of their first 15 games. But since then, they've won 10 of their past 14 and improved to a 15-14 record. Harper is coming back just as the team is finding its groove.