Getty Images

As Philadelphia Phillies slugger Bryce Harper continues his recovery from Tommy John surgery in November, hypotheticals about his eventual return continue to emerge. 

First, the club made the surprise choice to not place him on the 60-day injured list to start the season, which suggests he could return before the end of May -- well in advance of what those initial estimates said. Then we learned that Harper has asked to play at first base once he's able to take the field (he'll DH for a while after he's activated), which would help the Phillies help cover for the injured Rhys Hoskins at the position. 

Saturday occasioned the latest twist, as manager Rob Thomson said that Harper may not require a minor-league rehab assignment before his return, which could hasten said return. Via Scott Lauber of the Philadelphia Inquirer, here's what Thomson had to say about the prospect of Harper's skipping any preparatory trip to the minors: 

"I really don't know if he will go on an assignment."


"I mean, if he's swinging the bat well and he feels good," Thomson said, "I say why waste it?"

As Lauber notes, Harper needed barely any time in the minors before returning from last year's major thumb injury, and the team has the technology to take simulated, major-league-caliber at-bats as he gets closer to his return date. Harper has already been taking batting practice and has a simulated game scheduled for early next week, all of which means he's getting closer and closer. He still needs medical clearance to execute his preferred head-first slides, but in some ways that's the last remaining hurdle. 

No doubt, the Phillies need his potent lefty bat back in the lineup. The reigning National League champs entered Saturday's game against the Reds with a disappointing 5-9 record and ranking just 11th in the NL in home runs.