CHICAGO — Philadelphia All-Star slugger Bryce Harper faced a left-hander for the first time in his quest to return sooner from Tommy John surgery.
“I’m going to keep pushing the envelope and trying to do everything I can to be ready,” Harper said after facing Ranger Suarez prior to the doubleheader against the Chicago White Sox.
This marked only the second time Harper has faced live pitching, and he admitted “I still need to get into the grind of things.”
Harper saw 16 pitches, and he hit a fly to center, grounded to second base, fouled three pitches and swung and missed three times against Suarez.
“I wish Ranger was throwing a little more pitches at a time,” Harper said of Suarez, who is recovering from a left forearm injury. “I want to see more. At the same time, I want to be smart, too, with who I’m facing.
“I don’t want to face a guy from low-A and get blown up in the hand or anything like that. I just want to be smart with whom I’m facing, what I’m doing, when we’re doing it.”
Harper declined to say whether he was ahead of schedule in his recovery, but his work at first could suggest he could return sooner than June. He still has yet to be medically cleared to play any position until he can resume throwing.
“I don’t want to get out there and not play to my ability unless I can do it,” Harper said.
Harper also is mindful of sliding feet first and not risking an injury to his right elbow.
“If I slide head first and hit my right arm on the ground, it’s the same thing,” Harper said. “I could sprain my arm and be out for five to seven months. There’s no reason to rush that. I need to be smart in what I do. I’m not going to rush anything out there because it does nothing good for our team or organization if I come back the fastest and not the smartest in what I do.”