Bryce Harper’s injury more serious than feared, but he keeps on swinging

The Phillies are learning more about the elbow injury that has plagued Bryce Harper for a month — and the news is not necessarily good.

Harper has a small tear in the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, the team confirmed Thursday night. He will not throw for a month and will be treated with a platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injection on Sunday. The procedure will keep Harper out of the lineup when the Phils close out a series in Los Angeles on Sunday and likely Tuesday when the club returns home to host the San Diego Padres.

Harper will be able to continue to serve as the Phillies’ designated hitter as his recovery from the injury continues. He first injured the elbow making a throw in right field on April 11. He has not played right field since April 16 but has been in the lineup as the DH for 23 straight games, including Thursday night in Los Angeles.

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Harper was initially diagnosed with mild strain in the flexor mass, the area where the forearm meets the elbow. He periodically tested the elbow with some light throwing but continued to feel discomfort. The team ordered some further tests last week and they confirmed a small tear in the UCL. Harper was examined Thursday in Los Angeles by orthopedic surgeon Neal ElAttrache.

UCL tears can be scary. They can lead to Tommy John surgery and a year-plus of rehab. Some small UCL tears can heal without surgery. That’s what the Phillies are hoping for. The Phils will know more when Harper starts a throwing program in a month.

Some UCL tears can be repaired with a surgery that requires significantly less recovery time than Tommy John surgery. Rhys Hoskins had the surgery, called an internal brace procedure, after the 2020 season and was fully recovered by opening day 2021.

Phillies general manager Sam Fuld spoke with Scott Franzke on the radio pregame show Thursday night and expressed optimism that Harper is headed in the right direction.

“In relative terms, this is good news,” Fuld said. “There’s a plan in place and there’s confidence surrounding that plan. The outcome certainly could have been worse.

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“I know Bryce is going to be happy to have a plan that we’re all aligned with and have some clarity on. I think that’s helpful for players, any time you get hurt, just to know what the near term looks like on a daily basis.

“There’s a good amount of optimism that PRP can be helpful and we’re optimistic things will turn out well in the medium to long term, and in the meantime, we’ll continue to have Bryce work out of the DH spot.”

The injury only affects Harper’s ability to throw the ball. His swing is just fine. In fact, he homered in the first inning of Thursday night’s game against the Dodgers.

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