As the Phillies continue to vie for a wild card berth, their biggest possible reinforcement is taking a step closer to a return, as Bryce Harper is slated to begin a Triple-A rehab assignment on Tuesday or Wednesday. Harper underwent surgery to repair a fractured left thumb in late June, and told reporters (including MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki) that his thumb has now regained full strength and is at roughly “85-90 percent” in terms of mobility.
While his thumb seems to be making good progress, Harper did caution that “I’m not really sure how it’s going to feel after I make contact, things like that. [Batting practice], machine, it all feels good, but you just never know until you get in the game.” That said, Harper has set September 1 as a loose target date for a return, so it seems like he’ll be in line for a week of Triple-A games.
It is possible Harper’s rehab assignment could be on the longer side because he wants to “come back at full strength playing,” rather than something like a limited schedule of playing two of every three games. Harper has already been limited to some extent this season, as a UCL tear in his throwing elbow kept him limited to being a designated hitter since April.
That elbow problem didn’t keep Harper from hitting .318/.385/.599 with 15 home runs over his first 275 plate appearances. If Harper can get anywhere close to that production upon his return, the Phillies will get a major boost in their hopes of ending their postseason drought. Philadelphia has continued to play well with Harper sidelined, posting a 28-20 record in the 48 games since he fractured his thumb.