Getty Images

Philadelphia Phillies slugger Bryce Harper is continuing to work his way back from the Tommy John surgery he underwent last November. As the team ponders his welcome return to the lineup, a new possible role has emerged for Harper. 

As Matt Gelb of The Athletic reports, Harper approached the team about playing first base at some point after his return to the active roster, and the club liked the idea enough to proceed with it. Gelb writes: 

"This week, the Phillies initiated the plan. They are preparing Harper to play first base later this season. This does not affect his timetable to return to the Phillies' lineup — he will still return as the designated hitter because he will be cleared to hit in games before he is cleared to throw. But if Harper takes to the new position, the Phillies think it could allow him to return to the field sooner than if he played right field."

The Phillies have a need at the position because incumbent Rhys Hoskins suffered a major knee injury in spring training that may sideline him for the entire season. As the Phillies and Harper realize, first base would presumably tax his surgically repaired throwing arm less than right field would. 

Not long after Hoskins' injury, we floated the idea of Harper as his replacement. Harper has two career appearances at first base, and while the position has its demands and skill requirements, it's not a premium position, and plenty of players have made a successful transition to first from elsewhere on the diamond. 

As for Harper's return, the Phillies opted not to place him on the 60-day injured list to start the season, and that raised hopes that he might make his way back to Philly before the end of May. As noted above, he'll be a DH at first, but Harper's potent bat will be a boon to a Phillies offense that's struggled to put runs on the board thus far in 2023. Harper's journey back to the active roster may begin soon, as manager Rob Thomson recently told WIP that all he needs is clearance to slide before he's ready for a minor-league rehab assignment. At that point, the countdown begins -- a countdown toward the return of their best hitter and, perhaps, their new first baseman.