- ESPN MLB insider
Author of “The Arm: Inside the Billion-Dollar Mystery of the Most Valuable Commodity in Sports”
Two-time MVP Bryce Harper was cleared to return to play barely five months after undergoing reconstructive surgery on his throwing elbow and is expected to rejoin the Philadelphia Phillies at designated hitter Tuesday against the Dodgers, sources familiar with the situation told ESPN.
The 30-year-old Harper underwent Tommy John surgery on Nov. 23 and was expected to be out until July. The timetable shifted during spring training, when Harper’s recovery was going better than expected, and accelerated in recent weeks for a return two months ahead of schedule.
Harper visited Monday with Dr. Neal ElAttrache, who performed the surgery, to ensure he was medically cleared to return. After the appointment, Harper posted photos of himself in a Phillies uniform on Instagram with the caption: “Aye Pham. You ready?”
If he is in the lineup, it would be 160 days after his surgery — the fastest known return from Tommy John, a procedure to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament. Typically the quickest returns are from position players — swinging a bat generally does not jeopardize healing in the same way throwing does — but the rapidity of Harper rejoining the Phillies shattered the norm even for those not on the mound.
Philadelphia is expected to ease him back into the field, with a return in June or July — and perhaps at first base, a position that has been in question for the Phillies after Rhys Hoskins tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during spring training.
In the meantime, the Phillies get back one of the best bats in the major leagues and the emotional leader of the team that made a surprise run to the World Series in 2022.
Over 11 major league seasons, Harper has hit .280/.390/.523 with 285 home runs and 817 RBIs. After winning his second MVP in 2021, he hit .286/.364/.514 with 18 home runs in 99 games last year. In addition to the partially torn UCL, Harper suffered a fractured thumb that sidelined him for most of July and August. He again returned ahead of schedule, helping the Phillies recover from a 19-31 start for a brilliant October run.
In the division series against Atlanta and NLCS against San Diego, Harper batted .444 with four home runs and 10 RBIs, including a home run off Padres reliever Robert Suarez that sent the Phillies to the World Series, where they lost in six games against Houston Astros.
The emergence of Harper as the heart of the Phillies was never clearer than last year, his fourth with the franchise after signing a 13-year, $330 million contract before the 2019 season.
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