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How long will Bryce Harper’s surgery keep him out of the Phillies’ lineup in 2023?

How long will Bryce Harper’s surgery keep him out of the Phillies’ lineup in 2023?

Phyllis learned how to live without Bryce Harper in 2022. They will put those lessons to work again in 2023.

Harper, the team announced, will undergo surgery to repair an injured ulna collateral ligament in his right elbow next Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving. Dr. Neil L’Atrache of Los Angeles will perform the surgery.

Harper was examined by ElAttrache on Monday and an MRI confirmed that he will need surgery to repair the torn UCL.

The exact nature of the surgery won’t be determined until ElAttrache gets a real-time look inside Harper’s elbow. Depending on the extent of the injury, Harper will either have a complete reconstruction of the ligament — Tommy John surgery — or a lesser operation known as an internal bracing procedure.

Either way, Harper will miss at least the first month of next season.

“With the surgery and the expectation that something happens, I think it will slow him down for the season, but we’ll know more next week,” Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said Wednesday.

On April 11, Harper injured his elbow while throwing to right field. Even injured and unable to throw, he managed to stay in the Phillies’ lineup as the designated hitter.

Tommy John surgery usually sidelines pitchers for at least a year. Harper, obviously, is not a pitcher so his recovery from Tommy John surgery may be faster than expected. Even if he isn’t ready to throw in the outfield, he could remain the team’s DH in 2023. The question remains: When will he be ready for that role? While there’s no definitive answer because everyone heals differently, there’s this likely template: Los Angeles Angels star pitcher/slugger Shohei Ohtani had Tommy John surgery shortly after the 2018 season and returned as his team’s DH a little more than seven months later. For Harper, seven months post-op will be in late June.

If ElAttrache determines that Harper is a candidate for a lower internal brace procedure, recovery will be faster, according to some estimates, four to six months. Rhys Hoskins had a procedure to repair a UCL tear in his left elbow in early October 2020 and participated in a full spring training in 2021.

Hoskins had an entire offseason to recover from his surgery. For good reason, Harper doesn’t have that luxury. The Phillies played in November when they made the World Series for the first time since 2009. If Harper’s injury can be repaired with an internal bracing procedure, a four- to six-month recovery window will carry him through the regular season, and he’ll likely return as a hitter while he builds his throwing power.

Regardless of the method, the Phillies aren’t going to rush Harper’s return. The 30-year-old two-time National League MVP is a huge investment with nine years remaining on the 13-year, $330 million contract he signed in March 2019. The team wants him 100 percent when he’s ready.

The Phils have experience playing without Harper. While playing through an elbow injury in 2022, he missed the start of 2022 with a broken left thumb suffered by a pitch hit on June 25. Harper missed two months due to injury and the Phillies went 32-20 to confirm their status as a contending club.

“You never want to lose Bryce,” manager Rob Thomson said Wednesday. “He’s one of the best hitters in baseball, if not the best. We spent a lot of time without him last year and it gave other guys a chance to step up and they did. So, while we’ll miss him and look forward to having him back, we’re the same thing. I’ll look for it.”

Much of their focus in the offseason was on lengthening the lineup with bats — perhaps someone from the Gowdy free-agent shortstop class that includes Trea Turner, Xander Bogaerts, Carlos Correa and Dansby Swanson — and adding to the pitching staff, both in the rotation and the bullpen, with the Phils inside. may try to fill the void created by Harper’s loss, as they did in 2022. Darrick Hall came up from the minors and provided left-handed pop with nine homers after Harper went down. Outfielders Nick Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber, catcher JT Realmuto and first baseman Hoskins could all be candidates for occasional reps at DH while Harper recovers. If Hoskins were to fill in at DH, the Phils could use Alec Boehm at first and Edmundo Sosa at third, thus improving their infield defense. This is contingent on the Phils signing a shortstop and Sosa not having to play there full-time.

Dombrowski said he won’t know how Harper’s surgery will affect the team’s offseason plans until he gets a full diagnosis from El Atrache and the medical team next week.

“We’re meeting now,” Dombrowski said. “We cover every topic we can think of — clubs, potential free-agent signings, trades — all those things. In the back of our minds, there’s going to be some discussion of, ‘What if we do?’ If we’re in a situation where we’re looking at him coming back and DHing for part of the season, it’s nothing. It’ll be done.”

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