Phillies fans had a scare earlier this evening as superstar slugger Bryce Harper exited today’s game against the Marlins after he was hit by a sinker from Marlins lefty Braxton Garrett. The pitch struck Harper’s right elbow, the same elbow Harper underwent Tommy John surgery on back in November. Fortunately, Harper appears to have avoided serious injury, as manager Rob Thomson told reporters (including Alex Coffey of The Philadelphia Inquirer) that x-rays on Harper’s elbow came back negative. That said, Thomson also noted that Harper’s still dealing with some soreness and his availability for tomorrow’s game is in question.
That Harper is unlikely to require a trip to the injured list is surely a relief for the Phillies. In 55 games since returning from rehabbing the aforementioned Tommy John surgery, Harper entered tonight’s game with a slash line of .287/.381/.392. While just three home runs and a .105 ISO are both unlike Harper, a typically excellent 13.5% walk rate has helped to buoy his production to an above-average 111 wRC+.
In conversation with reporters, including Todd Zolecki of MLB.com, Harper acknowledged his first half power outage, saying “I’m not where I want to be. I’m not hitting the homers that I want… I still feel like I’m having good at-bats. I still feel like I’m going out there and plugging along. We have a long way to go.”
Harper also noted that he was progressing toward playing first base, a goal he’s been working toward since before his season debut. President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski added that the Phillies will know whether or not Harper can play first base down the stretch prior to the trade deadline on August 1, when Philadelphia seems poised to look for improvements. After a difficult start to the season, the Phillies have heated up with a 23-10 record since the start of June, enough to put them half a game ahead of the Giants for the final NL Wild Card spot.
If Harper will be able to act as the regular starter at the cold corner, the Phillies would be able to explore an addition to their outfield while moving Kyle Schwarber to DH. Mark Canha, Adam Duvall, and Tyler O’Neill are among the outfield bats who appeared on MLBTR’s recent Top 50 Deadline Trade Candidates list that could fit Philadelphia’s needs. In the meantime, Coffey notes that center fielder Brandon Marsh has begun taken reps in left field as the club explores the possibility of using Marsh in left, Cristian Pache in center, and Nick Castellanos in right. With two center field caliber gloves in the outfield, the Phillies could not only see a significant upgrade over Schwarber (-15 Outs Above Average) in left, but also help make up for the subpar glovework of Castellanos (-2 OAA) in right.