It’s been almost 2 months exactly since we saw Bryce Harper play a competitive baseball game, but Monday night we got our first glimpse. It was absolutely glorious. Harper, who has been on the IL since back on June 25th when a high and inside fastball from San Diego Padres SP Blake Snell struck him on the left thumb, breaking the digit and sending the reigning NL MVP to the operating table, finally started his rehab trip down to Lehigh Valley last night. The expectation was that Harper would show some rust; I mean, that’s why he’s down in AAA for a couple games, right? Well, apparently no one told Bryce Harper that.
In the very first at bat of his minor league assignment, Harper mashed a 2-2 pitch over the fence in right center. Even though it was just a minor league game, that at bat was enough to announce his presence to everyone around the majors. But MVPs don’t just settle with that. In the bottom of the 8th, Harper came up in a huge pressure spot (relatively) for the Ironpigs, who were in a 1 run game. All #4 (his minor league number) did was blast a 3-run homer the opposite way to left field to essentially ice the game. 2 home runs in his first game back seeing competitive pitching in 2 months? This dude is absolutely otherworldly.
Now, the average minor league rehab assignment is about a week’s worth of games, and it seems that this is the plan with Harper as well. Or at least, it was when he reported to Lehigh Valley. Bryce Harper is not the average player, though. He doesn’t heal average, he doesn’t prepare average, and he certainly doesn’t play average. Does that mean that a shorter than average rehab stint is ahead of him? It’s certainly possible. Playing devil’s advocate, though, it doesn’t look like there’s a huge need to rush Harper back considering the next 5 games are against the Reds and Pirates. Obviously Harper’s ability is back, but how his hand/thumb will feel after hitting 2 homers in a game is also hugely important. The Phillies handled Jean Segura’s finger injury perfectly, so we should have full faith in whatever decision they make to handle Harper. One thing is sure, though: with a playoff push coming, the Philadelphia Phillies’ best player looks more than ready. The league is officially on notice.