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Philadelphia Phillies All-Star slugger Bryce Harper has been working his way back from Tommy John surgery, which he underwent last November following the team's run to the World Series. The expectation has been that Harper would be able to return to the Philly lineup as DH around the time of the All-Star break in mid-July. 

On Tuesday, however, the Phillies made a move -- or non-move, to be accurate -- that raises the possibility of a hastened timeline: 

Putting Harper on the 60-day Injured List would rule him out for roughly the first two months of the regular season but it would also clear a spot on the 40-man roster. That means if the Phillies are certain he won't be game-ready by the end of May, then there's strong incentive to put him on that 60-day IL. That, however, is not what they've done. 

Obviously, Dombrowski, the Phillies' president of baseball operations, isn't plainly stating that they expect to have Harper back well ahead of schedule, but the decision to keep him off the 60-day IL certainly raises that possibility. As he says, options are being kept open, which means there are such things -- options. 

Harper is of course a vital piece for the contending Phillies. Because of that elbow injury, Harper did not appear in a game at a defensive position after April 16, and he later missed two months with a broken thumb. Still and yet, the two-time NL MVP and seven-time All-Star batted .286/.364/.514 (145 OPS+) with 18 home runs in 99 games. In 17 postseason contests last season, Harper posted a 1.160 OPS with six home runs and 13 runs batted in. The Phillies are once again positioned to contend, and getting Harper back for the majority of the season would be a huge boon to those hopes.