Bryce Harper’s return to the Phillies couldn’t have come at a better time

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Phillies Harper Rehab Baseball
Bryce Harper celebrates after hitting a solo homer against the Gwinnett Stripers in the first inning while he begins his rebab assignment at Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs in Allentown, Pa., Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2022. (Steven M. Falk/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP)

Few teams across the league have been as dominant as the Phillies after the All-Star break. Even without Bryce Harper, the Phillies haven’t just been good, they have been red-hot since the midseason break.

Since the All-Star break, the Phillies’ offense ranks fourth in batting average, seventh in home runs (40) and eighth in runs driven in (142).

Alec Bohm and Bryson Stott have continued to make strides and make huge plays when their number is called on.

Outfielder Nick Castellanos has also come alive since the all-star break. The prized free agent addition struggled mightily to start the year but has flipped a switch since the end of July. Over the last 30 days, Castellanos has a batting average of .336 with 37 hits, 4 home runs, 13 RBIs, and 15 runs scored in 28 games.

His turnaround, in addition to the former farm system standouts blossoming at the big league level, has transformed the Phillies into a juggernaut in the National League.

Since the all-star break, only six teams have collected more extra-base hits. Coincidentally, the only teams that rank ahead of them are the teams with the best records in the MLB (Dodgers, Astros, Mets, Braves, and Cardinals).

Return of the MVP

Needless to say, the Phillies are trending in the right direction and look the part of a playoff contender.

Soon, the team will pose an even larger threat when the reigning NL MVP Bryce Harper returns to the lineup.

Bryce Harper has been out since June 25 when an errant pitch fractured his left thumb. The all-star outfielder is reportedly ahead of schedule in his recovery from the injury, though, and could return to the Phillies next week.

When initially asked about a potential date for Harper’s first game back, Phillies manager Rob Thomson said this coming weekend was a possibility. “A possibility, yeah, it just depends on how he feels,” Thomson said (via trentonian.com). “But that was pretty impressive last night. He did a lot of base running last night. I didn’t ask him but he’s probably pretty sore. He tried to steal third base.”

If his performance during his two rehab assignments is any indication, Bryce Harper is fully healthy and ready to play. The Phillies slugger delivered the Triple-A IronPigs a 6-5 victory over the Gwinnett Stripers on Wednesday with a walk-off two-run double in the ninth inning while he was recovering from a fractured left thumb.

The 29-year-old played second base and went 3 for 5 on the night, driving in two runs with two RBIs and striking out. In two minor league games, Harper is 5-for-8 with two homers, two doubles, three runs scored, six RBIs, two walks, and an otherworldly 2.325 OPS.

It’s also worth noting that Harper has been participating in full games, as opposed to the first few innings like most rehab assignments, and has still looked like himself.

Bryce Harper is officially back

All of this being said, Rob Thomson stated minutes ago that Bryce Harper will be reactivated on Friday.

“I think any time you go out there and you’re able to put the bat on the ball and have good at-bats, see pitches, compete at a high level, it’s always good,” Harper said after Tuesday’s 10-5 win over Gwinnett.

Infusing the reigning NL MVP into a top-ten offense should be a strong enough catalyst to propel the Phillies into the postseason. The team is 6-4 in their last ten games and currently holds the second Wild Card spot in the National League with a 69-55 record.

Winning the division seems unlikely at this point, but with Bryce Harper back in the lineup, the Phillies have to like their chances to make some noise in the playoffs.

Photo Credit: Steven M. Falk/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP

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