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Phillies OF Bryce Harper’s return from Tommy John surgery could make history

We discuss the historic recovery of Bryce Harper from Tommy John surgery.

Bryce Harper #3 of the Philadelphia Phillies takes infield at first base prior to the game against the Chicago White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field on April 19, 2023 in Chicago, Illinois. Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

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.

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.