That the defending National League champion Philadelphia Phillies are hovering around .500 this season and that’s impressive considering the team has been without two-time NL MVP Bryce Harper. That will change on Tuesday as the Phillies visit the Dodgers.
Tuesday MLB Betting News: Phillies Star Bryce Harper Set For Season Debut Vs. Dodgers
MLB Odds: Phillies +1.5 | Dodgers -1.5
When: May 2, at 10:10 pm ET
Where: Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles, CA
TV / Streaming: MLB Network, ESPN+, MLB.tv
Harper had Tommy John surgery on his right elbow exactly 160 days ago. If he was a pitcher, he’d never be back this early but Harper can play designated hitter at this point – he just can’t really throw the ball. The 30-year-old Harper 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. He would be the fastest major league player on record to return from the surgery (going by the date of his first MLB game action). Typically the quickest returns are from position players — swinging a bat generally does not jeopardize healing in the same way throwing does. Shohei Ohtani was previously one of the fastest to get back on the field, as he underwent the procedure in October of 2018 and was back on the field in May of the following year.
Harper will be the DH for a period of months; he will continue to learn first base with pregame drills, but clearance to throw without restrictions will take time. The Phillies do not want to rush that aspect of this recovery.
“He’s pretty geeked up about getting out there and playing,” Phillies manager Rob Thomson said. “He’s itching.”
Even while dealing with the UCL tear and missing time with a broken thumb last year, he still hit .286/.364/.514 for a wRC+ of 138, indicating he was 38% better than the league average hitter. Harper didn’t participate in a minor league rehab assignment. Instead, Harper has been facing live pitching from rehabbing big leaguers Nick Nelson and Ranger Suárez, as well as a series of Phillies minor leaguers in recent weeks.
There are ancillary concerns about Harper returning without game action. He has pushed his body with base-running drills, but they do not match the intensity of real game speed. That might put Harper at risk of a soft-tissue injury if he attempts to overextend himself on the bases. Harper’s return will force Kyle Schwarber to play left field on an everyday basis, and the Phillies have prepared Schwarber for a bigger workload there.
Harper’s last game with the Phillies was Nov. 5, 2022, a 4-2 loss to Houston as the Astros clinched the World Series. Harper was 0-for-2 with two strikeouts and then had surgery a few weeks later. Harper largely hit cleanup last season and it remains to be seen if Thompson keeps him there with the offseason addition of new leadoff hitter Trae Turner.
The first pitcher Harper will face is Dodgers lefty All-Star Julio Urias (3-3). Urias took the loss last Thursday against the Pirates after yielding six runs over 5 2/3 innings. The struggles continue for Urias, who gave up seven hits (including back-to-back homers in his final frame). He walked two and also saw three stolen bases occur under his watch. The southpaw has given up 13 runs (and six homers) across his last three starts and now holds an uncharacteristic 4.41 ERA on the year. Harper is 3-for-12 career off Urias with a double and two homers.
It’s lefty Matt Strahm (2-2) for the Phillies. Strahm earned the win last Thursday, allowing no runs on two hits over 5.1 innings against the Mariners. He struck out five. The Mariners couldn’t get anything going against Strahm, mustering just two hits, as the Phillies picked up a 1-0 win. It’s already the third scoreless outing for Strahm this season as he lowered his ERA to 2.31 with a 0.81 WHIP and 32:7 K:BB in 23.1 innings this season. Strahm is 0-1 with a 1.35 ERA in 20 career innings vs. the Dodgers.
The Phils will have to option one of their position players to the minors to make room for Harper unless an injury occurs first. The likeliest candidates are outfielder Jake Cave and corner infielder Kody Clemens, both left-handed hitters. Both have options remaining so they can’t be claimed by other teams.
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