Bryce Harper to have UCL surgery next week, Phillies unsure when he'll return in 2023

Bryce Harper is finally getting surgery on his right elbow, but the recovery might keep him out of commission for the start of the 2023 season.

Philadelphia Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski announced on Wednesday that their All-Star right fielder will be undergoing surgery on Nov. 23 to repair the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in his right elbow. Harper sustained a small tear in his UCL back in May and was forced to stop playing the field, spending the rest of the season in the DH role.

The biggest question now is when Harper will be able to play, and that question doesn't have an answer yet because we don't know what kind of surgery he'll have. Dombrowski doesn't even know. He said Tommy John surgery is on the table, but nothing is certain right now.

Hearing that the Phillies' most important and highest-profile player might need Tommy John surgery may be setting off alarm bells in some fans' heads. Tommy John surgery is something pitchers commonly get (though players at other positions have also had it), and when they do, it costs them an entire calendar year in recovery time. But for position players, the recovery time isn't so long because they don't use their throwing arm nearly as often as pitchers.

For example, Los Angeles Angels pitcher and first baseman Shohei Ohtani had Tommy John surgery on Oct. 1, 2018 and was able to return to the team as a hitter on May 7, 2019. That's eight months, and while that's still more than zero or one or two months, it's definitely less than 12. And if Harper manages to avoid having Tommy John surgery, the recovery time could be even shorter.

The UCL tear only stopped Harper from fielding, not hitting. From the beginning to the season through June 25, Harper hit .318/.386/.599 with 15 home runs. Harper then missed the next two months with a broken thumb, and hit under .230 when he returned, finishing the season hitting .286/.364/.514 with 18 home runs. But he came alive in the playoffs, hitting .349/.414/.746 with six home runs and playing a massive role in taking the Phillies all the way to the World Series.

HOUSTON, TEXAS - OCTOBER 28: Bryce Harper #3 of the Philadelphia Phillies reacts after scoring a run in the fourth inning against the Houston Astros in Game One of the 2022 World Series at Minute Maid Park on October 28, 2022 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)
Phillies All-Star outfielder Bryce Harper might miss the start of the World Series due to surgery on his right elbow. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)