Bryce has elbow surgery, should return as DH by All-Star break

November 24th, 2022

PHILADELPHIA -- Bryce Harper not only could begin hitting in as little as four months, but he could also rejoin the Phillies’ lineup in the first half of the 2023 season.

Harper had Tommy John surgery to repair the torn UCL in his right elbow on Wednesday morning in Los Angeles. It went well, sources said. It was relatively encouraging news considering the uncertainty entering the day. Nobody knew exactly what orthopedist Neal ElAttrache might find once Harper got on the operating table.

Harper could be hitting competitively in games sometime in May. The Phillies said in a press release, however, that they expect Harper to return as a DH by the All-Star break, which is July 10-13. They also said Harper could return to play right field before the end of the season.

Timetables vary, of course. ElAttrache performed Tommy John surgery on Shohei Ohtani on Oct. 1, 2018. He returned to DH for the Angels on May 7, 2019, or a little more than seven months following surgery. Seven months for Harper would be late June/early July. But there is optimism that Harper will return earlier than that.

Regardless, the Phillies will need to play weeks without their superstar slugger.

How will they do it? They could handle it the same way they handled his two-month absence this past season because of a broken left thumb.

Five different players DH’d in the 52 games Harper missed:

  • Darick Hall, 30 times
  • Kyle Schwarber, nine times
  • Nick Castellanos, five times
  • Rhys Hoskins, four times
  • Alec Bohm, four times

The Phillies went 32-20 (.615) while Harper recovered. Hall batted .264 with nine home runs, 16 RBIs and an .847 OPS in 135 plate appearances from his big league debut on June 29 through Aug. 21, when they optioned him to Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

“In the back of our mind, there will be discussions of, 'What do we do if … ?' which may be nothing, because we’re in a situation that right now we’re looking at [Harper] coming back and DHing for some portion [of the 2023 season],” Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said last week.

Before Harper tore his UCL in April, the Phillies planned to rotate Castellanos and Schwarber as the primary DH, with others getting a DH day here and there. So, in that sense, it would be surprising to see the Phillies pursue a corner outfielder or another DH-type player as a short-term stopgap this offseason.

It makes more sense for the Phillies to focus on a free-agent shortstop, plus starting pitching and bullpen help.