The Philadelphia Phillies are leaving open the possibility for Bryce Harper to return to their lineup much sooner than the All-Star break, but that doesn't necessarily mean a quicker-than-expected return for the slugger from reconstructive right elbow surgery.
While Harper will begin the season on the injured list, Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said Tuesday that the two-time National League MVP will not, for now, be placed on the longer 60-day IL that would mean he couldn't be activated before the end of May.
“I’m not setting any dates, but I’m just keeping that option open rather than closing an option," Dombrowski said from the team's spring training facility in Clearwater, Florida.
After Harper had Tommy John surgery in November, the National League champions said they expected him back in the lineup as their designated hitter by the All-Star break in July. The slugger indicated the same when he got to camp last month, adding that they were going to be smart about his recovery and rehab.
Dombrowski said the timetable hasn't really changed, and that the Phillies could still use the 60-day IL if they need to open a spot on the 40-man roster and know then Harper wouldn't be back before the end of May.
“So it’s really not a great revelation other than to just say the reality is, I’m going to just keep our options open, because who knows what happens,” Dombrowski said.
Going into the fifth season of a $330 million, 13-year contract with the Phillies, Harper hasn’t played right field since last April 16. He had a platelet-rich plasma injection on his elbow in May and became a full-time designated hitter to finish the season, helping lead the Phillies to their first World Series appearance since 2009.
Dombrowski said Harper, who for now is still hitting soft toss in the batting cages every other day, is feeling great and has no pain.
“All I've said, and all I'll continue to say, it’ll be before the All-Star break is our hope,” Dombrowski said. “But I’m also going to keep the option open that we’ll see what happens.”
The Miami Marlins are being cautious with veteran right-hander Johnny Cueto, who is dealing with arm soreness just over a week before the start of the regular season.
First-year manager Skip Schumaker didn’t seem concerned Tuesday when explaining why Cueto didn’t do his scheduled work on a back field the previous day. Cueto had been set to throw about 70 pitches while simulating four or five innings.
“This is a time where there’s no reason to push through this general soreness,” Schumaker said. “If he needs another extra day, you give people extra days and that’s the value of spring training. You’re allowed to do that.”
Cueto, back in camp with the Marlins after making a start for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic, is scheduled for a bullpen session Wednesday. If all goes well, he could pitch in a game for the Marlins on Friday.
The 37-year-old Cueto is going into his 16th big league season. He pitched last year for the Chicago White Sox before his deal with the Marlins that will pay him $6 million this season and includes a $10.5 million team option for 2024 with a $2.5 million buyout.
Cueto allowed 11 runs over 3 2/3 innings in his two spring starts for the Marlins before going to the WBC, where he allowed three runs over two innings in his lone start.
STEP FOR SOROKA
Michael Soroka is set to make his Grapefruit League debut for the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday, though the 25-year-old right-hander won't be ready to be in their rotation at the start of the season.
Soroka hasn't pitched in the majors since tearing his right Achilles in August 2020 and having three different surgeries. He then had hamstring tightness at the start of spring training.
After being an All-Star as a rookie in 2019, when he was 13-4 with a 2.68 ERA in 29 starts, Soroka tore his right Achilles three starts into the pandemic-impacted 2020 season. He tore that Achilles again the following summer, then was sidelined until throwing in six minor league games last year.
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