As Harper nears rehab assignment, Phils lose two huge pieces

August 21st, 2022

PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies cannot wait to get Bryce Harper back in the lineup.

They need his bat.

The more offense, the better, especially with Sunday’s news that right-hander Seranthony Domínguez has been placed on the 15-day injured list with tendinitis in his right triceps, and right-hander Corey Knebel will not pitch again this season because of a torn capsule in his right shoulder. Knebel has been placed on the 60-day injured list. Triple-A Lehigh Valley right-hander Tyler Cyr was added to the 40-man roster and took Domínguez’s spot in the bullpen.

Domínguez and Knebel are two huge losses for a bullpen with the 11th-best ERA in the Majors (3.71) since June 3.

Phillies interim manager Rob Thomson said he hopes Domínguez is back on Sept. 2, when he is first eligible to be activated, although Domínguez still needs to take an MRI exam to see if there is any structural damage. Domínguez had Tommy John surgery in 2020. This is his first full season since the surgery.

Sept. 2 could be Harper’s highly anticipated return, too. Harper, who broke his left thumb on June 25, said Sunday that he hopes to return around Sept. 1, when the Phillies are on a six-game road trip in Arizona and San Francisco.

The Phillies play Arizona from Aug. 29-31. They play San Francisco from Sept. 2-4.

“It’s always a goal to have in mind, where you want to be and what you want to do,” Harper said. “But we don’t know until I play. We can all talk about when and where, but we just don’t know until I play and how I feel with contact and things like that.

“I’m going to be smart with it. I’m going to be very smart with it and come back when I see fit and when my hand is feeling better and I can help this team every day and not just play two days, one day off, play two days, one day off. I’m going to come back at full strength playing.”

Harper said he expects to begin a rehab assignment Tuesday or Wednesday with Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

It is unclear how many games Harper will play in Lehigh Valley. For comparison’s sake, Jean Segura played eight rehab games with Lehigh Valley before he returned from a broken right index finger on Aug. 4.

Harper said, “It’s going to be touch and feel because, I mean, I’m not really sure how it’s going to feel after I make contact, things like that. BP, machine, it all feels good, but you just never know until you get in the game.”

Harper said his thumb has responded well since he started to take BP last week.

“I’m getting a lot better,” he said. “The more I hit, the more I use it, it’s getting better. I think we’re happy where we’re at right now. We’ll just progress as we see fit.”

“Probably anywhere from 85-90 percent right now, I would imagine,” Harper said about the thumb. “I think our biggest thing is the [mobility] of it, I guess, isn’t there. That’s why I say 85, somewhere in there, just because of the [mobility] part of it. But I think the strength and everything like that is there. I think as we progress it’s going to get better and better, I hope.”

Domínguez was 6-4 with a 1.64 ERA and nine saves in 46 appearances. He had a 2.3 WAR, which was the sixth-best mark on the team, according to Baseball Reference. Knebel was 3-5 with a 3.43 ERA and 12 saves in 46 appearances.

Thomson used Domínguez in the team’s most high-leverage situations in the late innings since early June.

Those innings will go to David Robertson -- who pitched a six-out save Saturday -- Brad Hand, José Alvarado, Connor Brogdon and Andrew Bellatti. Sam Coonrod just rejoined the bullpen after missing the entirety of the seasons so far with a shoulder injury. He could work himself into that role, too.

“Just try to mix and match with those guys as the 7, 8, 9 [inning] guys,” Thomson said.