Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski told members of the media, including Matt Gelb of The Athletic, that the club doesn’t plan to put Bryce Harper on the 60-day injured list for now. Harper is recovering from Tommy John surgery and isn’t expected back until July, but it seems the club will leave the door open for the possibility that he’s able to return in late May. Dombrowski didn’t say that Harper’s timeline had changed, but the club doesn’t need to open a roster spot at the moment and will at least keep their options open and put off the move until necessary.
As Gelb points out, a transfer to the 60-day IL can be backdated. Even if Harper is eventually moved there at some point during the season, he will still be eligible to be activated 60 days from Opening Day, which will be late May. It’s possible that’s how this ultimately plays out, but it seems as though the Phils think there’s at least some chance Harper can come back ahead of schedule. Whether that’s a realistic path or just wishful thinking remains to be seen.
Some other notes from the Senior Circuit…
- The Cardinals announced today that right-hander Dakota Hudson and left-hander Matthew Liberatore have each been optioned to Triple-A. Both players have been part of the club’s rotation plans in past years, but they’re currently on the outside of the starting group, with the five spots going to Adam Wainwright, Jordan Montgomery, Jack Flaherty, Miles Mikolas and Steven Matz. Hudson made 32 starts for the club in 2019 with a 3.35 ERA but hasn’t been the same since. Injuries limited him to just eight starts in 2020 and then just two appearances in 2021. Last year, he was healthy enough to make 26 starts but posted a 4.45 ERA with a 13.1% strikeout rate and 10.2% walk rate. Liberatore was once a top 100 prospect but struggled last year, posting a 5.97 ERA in the majors and 5.17 mark in Triple-A. Both players will head to the minors to work on their performance, which could have long-term ramifications for the club. Wainwright is planning to retire after this year, while Flaherty, Mikolas and Montgomery are all impending free agents. That leaves Matz as the only pitcher currently penciled into the 2024 rotation.
- Pirates right-hander Robert Stephenson will likely begin the season on the injured list. “We’re just running out of time,” manager Derek Shelton told reporters, including Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The righty was slowed by some arm discomfort early in camp, which was initially described as a precautionary setback. However, it seems he hasn’t been able to return to health as fast as hoped. The 30-year-old has had an up-and-down career, but is coming off a strong finish to his 2022. He had a 6.04 ERA last year when the Rockies put him on waivers, but then posted a 3.38 ERA with the Pirates after they claimed him. His strikeout rate also almost doubled, going from 18.8% with Colorado to 36% with Pittsburgh. The Bucs believed in him enough to tender him a contract and pay him a $1.75MM salary to avoid arbitration, his final year before reaching free agency.