Finally able to solidify a plan for the road ahead, Philadelphia Phillies star Bryce Harper just might be able to thrive now that he knows what he is up against.
When the visiting Phillies oppose the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday, Harper will be in his second game since getting confirmation that his right elbow injury is a small tear in his ulnar collateral ligament and not something that will keep him completely off the field.
Harper will be reduced to designated hitter duty for at least another month, and likely more, just as he has been since April 17 when his elbow discomfort began to increase. Even so, finding out exactly what is wrong seemed to put Harper into a comfort zone.
In his first at-bat after undergoing his exam Thursday in Los Angeles, Harper hit a solo homer on the second pitch he saw. He finished the night with three RBIs and will be the DH again Friday and Saturday before getting a platelet-rich plasma injection Sunday that will keep him out for the series finale.
He will not have to face left-hander Clayton Kershaw on Friday after the Dodgers put the veteran on the injured list with lower back inflammation.
"I'm glad that I know and have some clarity on where it's going to go from here," Harper said. "That's about it. I'll get the shot on Sunday, see how I feel the next couple of weeks and go from there."
Johan Camargo hit a two-run homer Thursday and wound up with three RBIs in Philadelphia's 9-7 win. Kyle Schwarber was dropped to the No. 7 spot in the order and responded with an RBI single in his first at-bat, ending an 0-for-15 drought.
At the very least, the Phillies are showing they know how to turn the page. The victory over the Dodgers was their fourth in six games following a four-game losing streak.
The Phillies will send right-hander Kyle Gibson (3-1, 2.94 ERA) to the mound on Friday.
In three lifetime appearances (two starts) against the Dodgers, Gibson is 0-3 with a 9.00 ERA. In a home start against Los Angeles last August, Gibson gave up six runs on seven hits in 4 1/3 innings.
The Dodgers fell Thursday for the third time in four games despite a valiant comeback attempt. Los Angeles tied the game 7-7 after trailing by six runs but still ended up with just its third defeat in 13 home games.
Unlike the Phillies, the Dodgers did not get their injury news with a silver lining. Kershaw will not start, as expected, with right-hander Walker Buehler (4-1, 1.96) getting the start instead on a regular four days of rest.
Buehler originally was scheduled to start Saturday, with the Dodgers able to replace one former All-Star with another. Kershaw, who signed a one-year deal with the Dodgers before the start of the season, is 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA in five starts and pitched seven perfect innings in his season opener at Minnesota last month.
Buehler last pitched Sunday, finishing off a three-game sweep on the road against the Chicago Cubs by allowing one run over seven innings. He has given up just one earned run over his last three starts (21 innings). In three career outings (two starts) against the Phillies, Buehler is 1-1 with a 5.40 ERA, his highest among any team he has faced in his career.
Now with 100 career starts, Buehler has a 43-13 record in his starting appearances for a .768 winning percentage. According to ESPN Stats & Information, that is second best all-time winning percentage over a first 100 starts to Whitey Ford (58-17, .773).
"I think the thing with Walker is, he's such a student of the game," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. "... He's learning the league, understanding hitters, understanding swings, and also really understanding how his pitch mix plays at this level. So you look back to when he first broke in to now, he's just obviously so much more experienced. He's just continuing to get better."
--Field Level Media