The two-time National League MVP was injured in April and last played right field April 16 in Miami. He underwent reconstructive right elbow surgery in November, causing him to miss the beginning of spring training.
The 30-year-old will have some catching up to do when he arrives in Clearwater, Florida. His teammates have been adjusting to new pitch clock rules, part of Major League Baseball’s efforts to speed up the game.
“It’s going to be a different game, of course, especially with myself and a lot of guys that have been playing for a long time,” Harper said Sunday. “It’s going to be different to see baseball on a time clock, but it’s something we’re going to have to adapt to. We’ll see what happens going forward. I look forward to kind of progressing in that how and when I can.”
Harper was at Las Vegas Motor Speedway to serve as grand marshal for the NASCAR Cup Series’ Pennzoil 400 race. He is a Las Vegas native who makes his offseason home here.
The Oakland Athletics are considering moving to Las Vegas. Their lease at RingCentral Coliseum expires after the 2024 season, and the A’s have been in discussions with officials in both Las Vegas and Oakland.
Harper said he hopes Las Vegas lands a baseball team, but he would prefer it be an expansion club.
“I don’t think a team can come here and thrive like the [NHL’s Vegas Golden] Knights did,” Harper said. “I think having a team like the Knights come in as an expansion is a lot different than having another Major League Baseball team come in here and try to thrive.”
Harper knows about thriving.
He had a platelet-rich plasma injection on his ailing elbow in May and became a full-time designated hitter to finish the season, helping lead the Phillies to their first World Series since 2009.
They lost to the Houston Astros in six games, but Harper batted .349 with six home runs and 13 RBIs in 17 postseason games. His two-run homer with two outs in eighth inning captured the pennant for the Phillies in a 4-3 victory over the San Diego Padres.