Bryce Harper might provide the Phillies with a surprising option at first base after Rhys Hoskins was lost for the season with a ruptured ACL and Darick Hall was ruled out for two months with a thumb injury after undergoing surgery on Wednesday.
To give the Phillies additional options when he returns from Tommy John surgery, Harper has started practicing at first base. He’ll keep doing it every day. It was reported this week by Phillies manager Rob Thomson that he is finally ready to hit in a game, but that sliding is still a problem. The ulnar collateral ligament in Harper’s right elbow is still vulnerable to rupture after surgery. Any misstep on his part, as he slides into second base or dives back to the first-base bag in a pickoff attempt, may ruin his hard work.
Philadelphia's Bryce Harper is working out at first base in an attempt to speed his recovery from Tommy John surgery. https://t.co/6YnHWYisyz
— WashTimes Sports (@WashTimesSports) April 14, 2023
The Phillies’ initial plan called for Harper to reprise his role as the team’s designated hitter after April 16. The Phillies saw the DH slot as a way to get his bat back in the lineup before he was ready to return to the field after a rehabilitation stint that included throwing.
Except for two occasions when he was moved to first base as part of a five-man infield to prevent the winning run from scoring, Harper has never played first base at the big league level. All but a third of his 10,793 total innings played were in the outfield.
The Phillies held off on putting Harper on the 60-day disabled list until the start of the regular season, which means he still has a shot at returning by Memorial Day. Whether he would be ready by then is still in the air, but the Phillies need him badly since they are about to embark on a 10-game NL East road trip through Atlanta, New York, and Washington.
Harper’s return to the field as a competent first baseman in 2023 would be a huge boost for the Phillies. The Phillies’ outfield defense would be strengthened by keeping either Kyle Schwarber or Nick Castellanos at DH. J.T. Realmuto might use it to stretch his legs after catching for a while. None of it would be conceivable if Harper were the regular starter at DH.
The Phillies have been utilizing Alec Bohm and Kody Clemens at first base while both Hoskins and Hall have been injured.
— MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) April 14, 2023