Bryce Harper knows a thing or two about success and what it takes. A resume which includes NL Rookie of the Year, a couple of Silver Slugger Awards and two NL MVPs will attest to this.
No matter how successful you are though, there will always be challenges to face and overcome. In this respect, the last nine months have been a testing time for Harper.
It started with the 2010 first overall draft pick undergoing Tommy John surgery last November, to repair his torn UCL in his right elbow, At the time, it was projected he would be back as a DH by the All-Star break.
An early return
In the end, Harper provided a boost to the Phillies by returning ahead of schedule at the beginning of May. It hasn't all been plain sailing however.
Up to and including August 4, the seven-time All-Star was having no problem hitting the ball, as evidenced by a .290 batting average. What was also standing out though, was his lack of power.
Through 77 games, Harper had amassed just five home runs and 32 RBI. The lack of bombs was particularly surprising, for a former NL home run leader who was also just two seasons removed from hitting 35.
This led to questions such as if the 30-year-old had returned from his injury too soon? Was he in some way compromising the full recovery of his right elbow?
That's more like it
In the two weeks since however, Harper has started to alleviate any concerns, with a sudden surge in his scoring production. Consider that in his previous 10 games he has hit four home runs and eight RBI, which is much closer to the player baseball fans have been used to during the past 11 years.
This recent upturn in form was highlighted during Wednesday's 9-4 win in Toronto. Of course beating the Blue Jays was the most important thing, but Phillies fans couldn't help but be excited by Harper's individual performance.
The two-time NL Hank Aaron Award winner was in a zone all night, with three hits in four at-bats. (He also had a walk.) The highlight, was blasting two home runs in one game for the first time since June of last year.
After the game, Harper gave some insight into why he hadn't been his usual self since returning to the lineup. Speaking to members of the media including Julia Kreuz of MLB.com, he said:
"Each night, I feel a little bit different. Some days the arm feels good, some days it doesn't. Sometimes I go up there and just don't feel right."
Encouraged by his recent form, Harper has hopes of a return to the World Series to finish what the Phillies started last year. As per NBC Sports Philadelphia, he said:
"Being able to do that tonight, hopefully, it's a stepping stone into what's to come. I love August, I love September, and I definitely love October. So, we've just got to keep it going as a team and on a personal level as well."
Harper doesn't have to be the team's best hitter in order to get back to the World Series, but it's probably better if he is. And with him swinging into form, the Phillies are hoping to benefit in the coming weeks.