Phillies former MVP likely not making a return to the outfield in 2023

Phillies Bryce Harper first base
Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Bryce Harper catches a foul ball hit by Cleveland Guardians’ Amed Rosario for an out in the third inning of a baseball game Friday, July 21, 2023, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Bryce Harper’s presence back in the Phillies lineup and field was the last piece to fit the puzzle this season. Although his perseverance and health have brought him back to the big stage, it seems he still has some ground to make up before going full-time in right field.

Phillies Bryce Harper MVP
PHILADELPHIA, PA – SEPTEMBER 26: Philadelphia Phillies fans hold up Philadelphia Phillies right fielder Bryce Harper (3) for National League MVP sign during the Major League Baseball game between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Pittsburgh Pirates on September 26,2021 at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia,PA. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire)

Having experience at DH after injuring his elbow on a throw from the outfield in April 2022 boded well for his chances to continue playing in that spot for 2023. His successful Tommy John procedure last offseason gave him ample time to go through his hitting and fielding mechanics prior to his debut on May 2nd of this year. He was then given the chance to suit up at first base on July 21st to further expose his arm and glove to action at that position.

According to manager Rob Thomson, Harper’s game plan for the rest of the season will consist of splitting time between first base and DH. The question of the star outfielder’s return only further emphasized the previous statement as Thomson proclaimed, “I wouldn’t think so, not at this point, unless something changes”. This isn’t a bad decision, however, as Harper’s time at first base has seen him commit only one error across nine games and 80 innings.

Not to mention, making a beautiful leaping catch into the safety net against the Cleveland Guardians.

Phillies Bryce Harper
Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Bryce Harper fields a ground ball hit by Cleveland Guardians’ Steven Kwan for an out in the first inning of a baseball game Friday, July 21, 2023, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Harper’s outlook with the Phillies moving forward

His play has been nothing short of incredible as Thomson stated, “Him handling situations, him fielding ground balls, his work around the base, I’m really happy and, frankly, surprised a little bit.”

It’s nice to see that even a potentially career-ending injury like TJ is not holding back the twice-crowned MVP during this campaign. Though this may be the case, the shift to DH is ongoing as we’ve been witnessing in this current series against the Kansas City Royals.

In the 2019 offseason, Harper signed a massive deal worth $330 million over the course of 13 years in the City of Brotherly Love. Now in his fifth year with the Phillies, Harper’s accolades include an All-Star selection, NL MVP award, All-MLB First Team nomination, Silver Slugger, and NL Hank Aaron Award. This season, Harper is currently batting .290 with five round-trippers and 32 RBIs in 77 games played.

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki