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Phillies lineup takes two giant steps forward with return of Harper and Schwarber

The two left-handed bats on Tuesday have been reinstated from the 10-day injured list.

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Phillies manager Rob Thomson knew he’d have Kyle Schwarber available when he made out his lineup card for the series opener against the Dodgers at Citizens Bank Park. He probably could have played a couple days earlier after straining his groin on June 27, but the rules mandated that he stay on the injured list for 10 days.

Bryce Harper, who suffered a strained hamstring in the same game Schwarber was injured, was a different story. When he called the first baseman Tuesday morning, he was anxious to get an update.

“Topper called and I told him I was ready to go,” Harper said before the game.

And, just like that, the Phillies lineup took two giant steps toward full strength. The final missing piece, catcher J.T. Realmuto, is expected to return from arthroscopic knee surgery shortly after the All-Star break, if not before.

With their two potent lefthanded bats at the top of the order, the Phils went 5-4 and scored two or fewer runs five times. Harper, the National League Player of the Month for both May and June, is a strong candidate to win his third career MVP Award. batting .303 with 20 homers, 58 RBI and a .981 OPS.

Schwarber is coming off his customary hot June, during which he batted .267 with 6 home runs and 14 RBI in 23 games. Overall, he’s hit 17 homers, has an .820 OPS and leads the NL with 59 walks out of the leadoff spot.

While Schwarber stressed that he’s 100 percent, Harper conceded that he needed every one of the 10 days in baseball purgatory and that he has to be mindful not to aggravate the injury.

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“Obviously, I’ve got to play smart this week,” he said. “Not go crazy, I’d imagine. Try to do the best I can to get into the break. Do it the right way and have a good week. Not throwing the cloak on, you know? Just understanding what I need to do to stay in the lineup.”

Harper, of course, has a reputation for being a damn-the-torpedoes-full-speed-ahead player. So he was asked how difficult it would be for him to practice restraint.

“Everybody knows the kind of player I am and how I go about it. But, obviously, for the long haul I just need to play smart this week,” he said.

Added Thomson: “We haven’t said anything to him. In our mind, he can go 100 percent, or he wouldn’t be playing. (But) if he wants to be cautious, I’m OK with that. I’m going to check in with both of them every day, obviously. But if they’re good in their mind, I’m good with it.”

Schwarber said he’s been “itching” to get back and is looking forward to Realmuto’s return as well. “Just being healthy in general,” he expounded. “That’s the name of the game, right? You want to be as healthy as you can for as long as you can. And hopefully after that last little speed bump we hit we can finish this thing healthy and strong and see where we go.”

To make room on the active roster, outfielder David Dahl was designated for assignment and infielder-outfielder Kody Clemens was optioned to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Dahl could be re-signed if he’s not traded or claimed on waivers.

“We’re adding two lefthanded bats and that eliminates two lefthanded bats,” the manager explained. “David didn’t have any options left. Kody, I told him I didn’t see a lot of playing time for him right now. We want to keep him going. We want him to continue getting regular reps. We want a little more focus on left field for him so he has that in his back pocket if we need to do it.”

Clemens is expected to play 3-4 games a week in left for the Iron Pigs.

ON DECK: Matchups for the final two games of the Dodgers series: RHP Gavin Stone (9-2, 3.03) vs. LHP Cristopher Sanchez (6-4, 2.96) Wednesday at 7:05 p.m. and TBA vs. RHP Aaron Nola (10-4, 3.48) Thursday at 6:05 p.m.

Then the Athletics come to Citizens Bank Park for the final three games before the break with RHP Ranger Suarez; Bishop Eustace grad RHP Tyler Phillips and RHP Zack Wheeler lined up to close out the first half. Phillips replaces Michael Mercado, who will transition to the bullpen, in the rotation.

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