PHILADELPHIA -- Citizens Bank Park should be rocking Friday.
Bryce Harper is back.
Harper was activated from the 60-day injured list before Friday night’s game against the Pirates, and he'll bat fourth as the designated hitter. Harper has not played since June 25, when a Blake Snell fastball broke his left thumb in San Diego.
Harper needed only 62 days to recover and rejoin the team.
It gives Harper 37 games to potentially play as the Phils pursue their first postseason berth since 2011.
“It’s amazing,” interim manager Rob Thomson said. “The first game we saw him in Spring Training [in 2019], I think it might have been the first pitch, he got hit in the ankle. … I ran in afterward. He was on the table and he was all wrapped up. I said, ‘How are you doing?’ He said, ‘I’m doing great.’ I said, ‘How will you be in the morning?’ He said, ‘I don’t swell and I don’t bruise.’ I’m like, 'All right, whatever.' So the next day I come in, he takes the wrap off -- no swelling, no bruising. It was unbelievable. He’s a quick healer.”
Harper’s return is an obvious boost to the Phillies, who have played well in his absence. They entered Friday at 70-55 and holding the second National League Wild Card spot. They have a 2 1/2-game lead over the Padres, who hold the third Wild Card, and a four-game lead over the Brewers, who are chasing both of them. Philadelphia's offense ranks seventh in the Majors in scoring (4.65 runs per game), 13th in on-base percentage (.315), seventh in slugging percentage (.423) and seventh in OPS (.738).
Harper makes the lineup even more dangerous. He was having one of the best seasons of his career when he got hurt, despite playing with a torn UCL in his right arm since mid-April. Harper was batting .318 with 15 home runs, 48 RBIs and a .985 OPS at the time of the injury, ranking fourth in the NL in batting average, sixth in on-base percentage (.385) and second in slugging percentage (.599).
Harper’s UCL has not healed, so he will only DH for the rest of the season.
Thomson said he spoke with Harper following Wednesday night’s rehab game with Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Harper went 3-for-5 with two doubles and two RBIs with the IronPigs, including a two-out, two-run walk-off double in the ninth.
Harper went 2-for-3 with two home runs and two walks in Tuesday’s rehab debut with the IronPigs.
Harper told Thomson on Wednesday night that he felt great. He said he felt he had his timing back at the plate, and that he felt comfortable in the box.
But Harper also felt sore, like it was the fifth day of Spring Training. That did not surprise or concern Thomson. Harper had not played in two months.
“Are you ready to go?” Thomson said.
“Yes,” Harper said.
Thomson and Harper spoke again Thursday morning. Harper said he still felt a little sore.
“I said, ‘Let’s take a day, come here and work out,’” Thomson said.
Harper originally planned to play with the IronPigs through Saturday. But it seemed clear to everybody that Harper did not need any more at-bats in Triple-A.
“It all depended on how he felt seeing pitches, his timing and how comfortable he was in the box,” Thomson said.
It is unclear if Harper will DH the entire series against the Pirates, but he is in the lineup Friday.
“We’ll just have to keep monitoring him,” Thomson said.