Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Bryce Harper underwent Tommy John surgery on November 23 of last year. His expected return time was the All-Star break, and only as the team’s DH. This followed a normal trend of recovery for such a procedure, even if it was considered on the quick side. Now, though, Harper is anticipated to be back in the Phillies lineup by May 5 and could even be playing first base — in what would be one of the quickest documented returns for a Major League player from Tommy John surgery in history.
Everything about Bryce Harper's rehab from Tommy John surgery has been absurd. But this is really happening. He could be back in two weeks. There is no precedent for it: https://t.co/8FrBdEZoxa pic.twitter.com/hlj9OiHVxy— Matt Gelb (@MattGelb) April 21, 2023
The study mentioned in the tweet above found that the average recovery time from Tommy John was just over a year, and that is typically what we see from pitchers. It is lower for position players, but it has never been as low as 163 days to return at the Major League level. There are even talks that Harper will bypass Minor League rehab starts just so that he can get back to the batting order as soon as possible.
Harper has spent the majority of his career playing outfield and then DH-ing once the universal DH was applied to both leagues. Then, it was reported in mid-April that Harper was preparing to play first base for Philly. If you have ever seen the movie Moneyball, you will remember a scene where Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) and Ron Washington (Brent Jennings) are trying to convince Scott Hatteberg (Chris Pratt) to play first base. Beane is trying to sell how easy it is to pick up, but Wash shuts it down, saying, “it’s incredibly hard.” We will see how easily Harper picks it up, but at the very least, it just adds yet another wrinkle to this historical recovery.