Wednesday, October 4 2023

Bryce Harper is back for the series he targeted all along originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

LOS ANGELES — Bryce Harper is back, and it turns out this was the series he targeted all along.

There were several reasons why.

It’s May 1, a checkpoint with the first month in the books.

It’s the Dodgers, a formidable opponent the Phillies might see again in six months.

It’s the city where his Tommy John surgery was performed and where Dr. Neal ElAttrache operates.

Beyond all else, it gave Harper a target, a specific goal to push toward.

“I looked at this series in the offseason and kind of put my head where it needed to be, understanding I’m taking it one day at a time, understanding that we could have setbacks, we could feel great, but I wanted to put myself the earliest I could in my mind to work toward something to get out there,” he said from the visiting dugout at Dodger Stadium two hours prior to first pitch.

“It could have been the middle of April, it could have been early May, it could have been the end of May. But I wanted to put my mind on something and really take advantage of that. I really wanted to put my body through it.”

Harper will return to the Phillies’ lineup Tuesday night. It will come just 160 days after his surgery, a shockingly rapid length of time for a procedure that, on the short end, has previously required at least seven months of recovery for a position player.

Or maybe it shouldn’t be so shocking, given the shape Harper keeps himself in, the passion he has to play every day and his obsession with winning.

“It’s May 1, it’s a month into the season. I think just really having five months to play this game helps everybody on this field,” he said. “Felt like I could’ve been back two weeks ago possibly, but the healing process didn’t let me do that. Anytime before that July mark, I was trying to push for. Very happy we were able to get to this point.”

He might not be Bryce Harper right away. He didn’t go on a rehab assignment because the Phillies gave him so many reps against live pitching over the last month, whether it was against Ranger Suarez and Nick Nelson rehabbing injuries of their own or facing minor-league pitchers in the organization.

His season debut Tuesday night will come against Julio Urias, a tough lefty that Harper doubled and homered off of last season. But batter vs. pitcher matchups or lefty splits are meaningless in the grand scheme. The Phillies will benefit greatly from Harper’s presence in the lineup, even if he starts slowly.

“You guys saw last year it took me about a month to get going after my thumb surgery,” he said. “Hopefully, it doesn’t take that long, I want to get out there and do everything I can for this team right now, hit the ground running. But if it takes me a minute, it takes me a minute, I’m just excited to get going.”

Harper will be the designated hitter for a while until he has been cleared to throw at first base. Right field does not seem to be in the cards this season.

The clearance he received Monday in LA was with headfirst sliding. Previously, there was a risk that a hard slide into a base could rupture the UCL in his repaired elbow. Now he’s good to go, aside from the regular risks of playing the game aggressively.

“That’s always a risk, it could be a risk right now or two months from now,” he said. “I’m healed the way I need to be as of right now, but there’s always that risk whenever you have a major surgery, something could happen, a tag on me or a slide on a bag, anything.

“But I got word today that it wouldn’t matter from right now, today, or in two months. We’d be in the same spot. I’m healed to where I need to be and we’re just going to play the game smart and play it the right way, which … there’s craziness with how I play. But understanding that I help my team when I’m on the field, not when I’m off the field.”

He was off the field for just 30 games to start the season, a number that would have made anyone in the organization or fanbase giddy a few months ago.

“It was a long process, the grind of it every single day,” he said. “I’m just pumped.”

Source: Yahoo Sports


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