The Philadelphia Phillies made a surprise run to the World Series in 2022 after they were the final team to make it into the MLB playoffs.
Fast forward a year and Philadelphia is one of the favorites to win it all in 2023 after a big offseason that included adding superstar shortstop Trea Turner.
But rather than flying out of the gates in 2023, the Phillies are off to a brutal, 4-8 start.
Starting first baseman Rhys Hoskins tore his ACL in Spring Training and is expected to miss the entire season. Aces Zach Wheeler and Aaron Nola have struggled to adapt to the new pitch clock. As has star reliever Seranthony Dominguez.
Sluggers JT Realmuto and Kyle Schwarber are both hitting below the Mendoza line. Oh, and superstar Bryce Harper is on the IL after having elbow surgery in the offseason.
But other than that, things are fine!
Thankfully for Philadelphia, Harper looks set to return well before initially expected.
First reports had the former NL MVP out until potentially the All-Star break. But he’s already taking batting practice and could make a shock return before the month of May even begins.
To necessitate that return, Harper could well make a major change.
Matt Gelb of The Athletic reports that Harper approached the Phillies with the idea of making the switch to first base in 2023. After beginning his career as catching prospect, Harper moved to the outfield with the Washington Nationals.
But now, with Hoskins out and Harper’s elbow still healing, a new position could be on the horizon.
This week, the Phillies initiated the plan. They are preparing Harper to play first base later this season. This does not affect his timetable to return to the Phillies’ lineup — he will still return as the designated hitter because he will be cleared to hit in games before he is cleared to throw. But if Harper takes to the new position, the Phillies think it could allow him to return to the field sooner than if he played right field.
“That just tells you something about Harp,” Thomson told The Athletic before Wednesday’s 3-2 Phillies loss to the Marlins in 10 innings. “The team guy that he is. He wants to play.” – via The Athletic
Philadelphia desperately needs Harper’s bat in a struggling lineup. But if he can play first base as well, it gives the team far more flexibility with lineup construction as the season progresses.
And as Philly showed a year ago, they just need to get in to make noise in the postseason.