By Jenny Masters
Phillies star Bryce Harper fractured his left thumb on a hit-by-pitch Saturday night, and the Inky’s Scott Lauber is reporting that Harper “is expected to need surgery.”
That procedure wouldn’t necessarily end his season, but it could cost him at least two months.
Even if he doesn’t need in surgery, he’s looking at a four-to-six week absence at minimum.
The start their series at CBP tonight against the Braves with a 39-35 record, placing them a game and a half back of the Cardinals for the final National League Wild Card spot (with the Giants also sitting a game above them).
Harper is hitting .318/.385/.599 with 15 home runs through 275 plate appearances, offense that checks in 66 percentage points above the league average by measure of wRC+.
That’s not far off the 170 mark from last season that resulted in his second career MVP. Playing through a UCL tear in his throwing elbow has relegated Harper to designated hitter for much of the season, but he’s remained one of the sport’s most productive offensive players.
Offseason signees Nick Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber will split time between one corner outfield spot and DH while Harper’s out of action. The Phils recalled Mickey Moniak over the weekend to join Odúbel Herrera and Matt Vierling as other options for interim skipper Rob Thomson. Philadelphia grabbed Oscar Mercado off waivers from the Guardians this afternoon to add a center field-capable depth player to the mix. Mercado has followed up a solid 2019 rookie showing with a trio of subpar seasons at the plate that eventually squeezed him off Cleveland’s roster.
Claiming Mercado certainly won’t preclude the Phils from further addressing the outfield over the next five-plus weeks. Center field was likely to be a target area even before Harper’s injury, and probably losing the star slugger through the end of August only figures to increase the club’s urgency for other upgrades. Andrew Benintendi, Anthony Santander, Michael A. Taylor, David Peralta, Tommy Pham and, if the Mariners don’t right the ship in the coming weeks, Mitch Haniger, are among the host of outfielders who could be available at the deadline.