Phillies outfielder Bryce Harper began his minor-league rehab assignment on Tuesday with a bang -- two of them, even. Harper, in his first game with Philadelphia's Triple-A affiliate in Lehigh Valley, launched a pair of home runs, including one on his first at-bat.
Take a look:
Phillies manager Rob Thomson told reporters Monday that Harper is expected to play every day through Saturday, and he could return to the Phillies lineup as soon as next Monday. (Position players are allowed to spend up to 20 days on a rehab assignment.)
Harper, 29, has not played in the majors since June 25 after an errant pitch from San Diego Padres left-hander Blake Snell fractured his thumb. He hit .318/.385/.599 (170 OPS+) with 15 home runs and 48 runs batted in over his first 64 games. His contributions -- worth an estimated 2.5 Wins Above Replacement, per Baseball-Reference -- earned him a spot in the All-Star Game. Unfortunately, Harper was not able to partake in what was his seventh career Midsummer Classic bid.
Should Harper return next Monday (Aug. 29), he would be slightly ahead of his original timetable. "When you say Sept. 1, I think that's a realistic goal," Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowskilast week. Dombrowski added Harper will return as the Phillies' designated hitter.
The Phillies, 67-55 on the season, entered Tuesday 11 games back in the National League East. Their path to the playoffs, then, is through a wild-card spot. The Phillies are currently tied for the second NL wild-card seed, and they lead the Milwaukee Brewers by 1 1/2 games. The San Francisco Giants, who are 6 1/2 games back, are the next-closest team.
The Phillies will play six more games this week against the Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates before heading to the West Coast next week. Harper's return could coincide with a three-game visit to the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Phillies will then play three games against the aforementioned Giants.
It should be noted that reliever Seranthony Dominguez may not be far behind Harper, according to Matt Gelb. The Phillies reliever was found to have no structural damage in his arm after landing on the injured list Sunday.