Harper has progressed to high velocity in the batting cages and has hit off the breaking ball machine. On Tuesday, he took ground balls at first base and practiced modified sliding.
Sliding is what’s holding back his return. Phillies manager Rob Thomson said Tuesday that Harper would be ready to hit in a game today, but again emphasized the risks associated with sliding. One false move could result in his ulnar collateral ligament rupturing again.
“Once he gets on base, then we can put a brace on him,” Thomson said. “But if he hits a double, we can’t hand a brace off to him as he’s rounding first base. That’s really where it gets dangerous.”
Why not just tell Harper not to slide, one might ask, but it’s hard to rid such an instinctive player and aggressive baserunner of his muscle memory.
The Phillies still are not putting a firm timetable on Harper’s return but more should be known after his next follow-up appointment in Los Angeles, where had his surgery performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache.
“Once they clear him to do full-out sliding, once we get that, then we’d reevaluate,” Thomson said.
The Phillies did not place Harper on the 60-day injured list out of spring training to leave open the possibility that he could return prior to Memorial Day. It doesn’t mean it will happen, but early-to-mid-June seems more likely as of this moment than the initial conservative timetable of the All-Star break.
Harper’s taking ground balls at first base does not mean he’ll be playing the position upon his return as the Phillies play the 2023 regular season without Rhys Hoskins. It is just a matter of getting glove work, similar to when Nick Castellanos takes ground balls at third base or Brandon Marsh gets reps in the infield.
Source: Yahoo Sports