Harper hits camp: 'I've got a long way to go'

March 9th, 2023

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Bryce Harper is back with the Phillies, and he said Thursday he feels good following Tommy John surgery in November.

Harper is not ready, however, to give a timeline on when he might rejoin the Phillies’ lineup. The team said in November that Harper could be back by the All-Star break, but they said shortly thereafter it was a conservative timeline. That is fine with Harper. He said while he could be back earlier than that, he allowed for the possibility he might not.

“I’ve got a long way to go,” he said.

Harper had been recovering at home in Las Vegas before he got to camp on Wednesday. On Thursday, he discussed multiple topics with reporters at BayCare Ballpark.

Timeline. “I think today we’ll probably go over that a little bit more and get a sense of where they’re at, where I’m at. I had a great offseason after I had surgery. I felt really good. I still feel good now. I don’t want to put timelines on anything because I’ve never dealt with anything like an elbow. It’s definitely different waters for me.

“Things can change [with the All-Star break timeline] either way. I can be after. I can be before. As of right now that’s the date we’ve kind of solidified. We’re not going to rush. We’re going to be smart about it.”

Swinging the bat again. Harper hit off a practice tee for the first time Thursday. He had been dry swinging back home, meaning he had been swinging a bat, but not hitting baseballs.

“We did some initial testing and everything felt good, looked good,” Harper said. “Once I was done with surgery, I took the time off that I needed to let it heal. It’s still healing right now, it’s still evolving. Everybody’s body is different, that’s why I haven’t really talked to [other hitters who’ve had Tommy John surgery] about it.”

Harper will hit every other day off a tee for now, then progress to soft toss, cage batting practice, field BP and then live BP. Phillies manager Rob Thomson said Harper will “probably not” take live BP before the end of camp, although he allowed the possibility it could happen at the very end.

“He’s got a lot of steps to go through,” Thomson said.

The DH. “We’re thankful for the DH again. I mean, I was so against it, right? But I’m all about it. I love doing it, too. We’ll be out there when I can.”

Playing right field again. Does he expect to play right field before the end of the season? Or would it be a bonus? “It just depends on how I’m feeling. I don’t think we’re going to rush back the throwing part because we kind of don’t have to at this point. But, of course, I want to play the outfield. I want to be back out there and be in front of the fans in right field and doing my stuff, and hearing it from all the other teams in the league, too. I look forward to getting back and throwing the baseball again. I miss the feeling of throwing a guy out, chasing down a ball. I’m looking forward to that when that day comes.”

Trea Turner. “John [Middleton] called me and said, ‘Hey, we got your friend.’ I went, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me right now?’ I’m really excited. Trea is such an unbelievable player. I’m really excited to have him on our side. He’s a dynamic player. He’s a threat on both sides of the ball. He’s going to steal bags for us. He’s going to take the extra base. He plays the game hard. People in Philadelphia are going to love this guy, just because of his demeanor and the way he plays.”

Big offseason contracts. Harper signed a 13-year, $330 million contract in February 2019. He did not want an opt-out. Manny Machado, who signed a $300 million contract that offseason, did. He used the opt-out this spring to leverage an 11-year, $350 million contract extension to remain in San Diego. Harper said he has no regrets. “I made the decision to stay with the team for a long time. If you know, Manny didn’t use his opt-out. They kind of extended him at the same time. I think being able to stay with an organization for a long time, let the fans know that I was going to be here for a long time, that was my main thing. I didn’t want to go through all the craziness of, ‘Where is he going? What’s he going to do? Where’s he going? What’s he going to do?’ I wanted this organization, the team and the fans to know that I was going to be here for the long haul, no matter what. … I want to play well into my 40s. That’s always been the dream and the goal. I’m here until I’m 38, so we’ll see what happens.”