The Philadelphia Phillies have been one of the best teams in baseball since firing manager Joe Girardi in early June, and they’ve done it mostly without reigning NL MVP Bryce Harper. An errant pitch broke Harper’s thumb on June 25 and he has not played since. The injury required surgery and he had the pins removed from his thumb on Aug. 1.
As the Phillies enter the stretch run, Harper has resumed swinging a bat (he posted some video on Instagram), and he could rejoin the team in early September.
“When you say Sept. 1, I think that’s a realistic goal,” president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said on MLB Network on Monday afternoon. Dombrowski added Harper will return as a DH.
An elbow ligament injury limited Harper to DH duty prior to his broken thumb. There’s a chance he will need Tommy John surgery at some point, but for now, he’s able to swing a bat and run the bases. He just can’t throw. The Tommy John surgery recovery time is shorter for position players than pitchers, should Harper have the procedure after the season.
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During Harper’s absence, rookie Darick Hall has stepped in at DH and done a nice job, slashing .267/.302/.550 with eight home runs in 34 games. Hall’s played well enough to force the Phillies to find a way to keep him in the lineup when Harper returns, though that’s not a problem they’ll have to solve for another few weeks.
Harper, 29, hit .318/.385/.599 with 15 home runs in 64 games prior to the thumb injury. Even with a troublesome elbow, Harper was producing at an MVP level. Last season he authored a .309/.429/.615 line with 42 doubles and 35 doubles.
At 63-51, the Phillies sit in the third and final National League wild-card spot with a 1 1/2-game lead over the Brewers. They were 22-29 under Girardi and are 41-22 under interim manager Rob Thomson.