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Harper: ‘If I was hurting, I’d come out of the game’

Sep 3, 2013, 10:11 AM EDT

Associated Press Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA — Anybody watching Bryce Harper during Monday night’s 3-2 loss to the Phillies could tell the Nationals outfielder was less than 100 percent healthy. Harper took awkward swings, he labored to get down the first-base line and he gingerly took his position in the field between innings.

In the middle of the third inning, shortly after Harper limped down the line on a groundout to second base, Jayson Werth brought his teammate’s cap and glove out to the field for him. Werth, though, withheld Harper’s equipment for several seconds, appearing to seek some confirmation first that Harper felt well enough to continue playing.

Harper did finish out the game, going 1-for-3 with a key walk in the top of the eighth. But Davey Johnson revealed afterward his young outfielder indeed is dealing with a hip injury, an ailment the veteran manager only learned of Monday night.

“I was a little disturbed that I wasn’t informed that he was having some treatment on his hip,” Johnson said. “But every time anybody talks to Harp, he says: ‘I’m fine, I’m fine, I’m fine.’ So I’m going to stick with him.”

Harper, as he’s done in the past when playing through some kind of pain, insisted this injury isn’t significant.

“I’m fine,” he said. “Just like I told [Johnson]: If I was hurting, I’d come out of the game. I feel good.”

Harper’s play didn’t appear to be significantly impacted by the ailment. He singled off Cole Hamels in the sixth, drew a key, five-pitch walk off lefty Cesar Jimenez in the eighth and had no issues in the field.

Even if it didn’t translate into anything on the field, Johnson seemed less-than-pleased his young star didn’t speak up sooner about his condition.

Asked if he wished Harper would have spoken up about the injury, Johnson replied: “Yeah, but he still had a heck of a ballgame. Had a walk, a base hit. But I’m more concerned about him being available the next day when I have some options. But he’s a tough kid. That’s the way he is.”

In all likelihood, Harper hasn’t played 100 percent healthy since late-April, when he first injured himself crashing into the chain-link fence in Atlanta trying to rob a home run. Three weeks later, he banged his knee against the wall at Dodger Stadium, ultimately landing on the disabled list with bursitis that could require offseason surgery.

Through it all, Harper has remained a productive player. He enters Tuesday with a .278 batting average, 19 homers, 20 doubles, a .381 on-base percentage and .514 slugging percentage. He remains a few plate appearances shy of qualifying for the league leaderboard, but he would currently rank 10th in the NL with an .895 OPS.

“We’ve got a month left,” he said. “I’m going to play as hard as I can and just worry about it at the end.”

  1. scbilly - Sep 3, 2013 at 10:33 AM

    I get that Davey is upset that Harper didn’t tell him about the condition, but if Harper’s been getting treatment from the team’s training staff and he wasn’t told, somebody ought to be fired. Is there any situation where withholding that information from the manager isn’t a huge red flag?

    • Sec 309 - Sep 3, 2013 at 10:46 AM

      Players get treatment from the training staff all the time. Treatment doesn’t equal injury. It could be something as mundane as a massage. This late in the season, everyone on the team is playing through some aches and pains.

      • scbilly - Sep 3, 2013 at 12:37 PM

        I understand that lots of players are getting some kind of treatment at any given time – but isn’t the manager usually made aware of all of it? And especially made aware of anything serious enough to cause a player to be limping around or taking awkward swings?

    • Eugene in Oregon - Sep 3, 2013 at 1:09 PM

      In all the books and articles I’ve read about baseball over the years, two common themes are:

      — Players slipping into the training room for treatment of a ‘minor’ injury with an explicit request to the trainer that he not tell the manager (and many trainers honoring that request); and

      — Trainers, coaches, and other team staff being lumped into two categories by players: those who can ‘keep a secret’ and those who ‘tattle to the manager’ on various on- and off-field developments (guess which category is appreciated more by the player? by the manager?).

  2. kirbs3256 - Sep 3, 2013 at 10:36 AM

    As long as he heals in the off season….

  3. Section 222 - Sep 3, 2013 at 10:41 AM

    I just hope that Harper, the doctors, and the team are thinking about this the right way. The question is not whether he can survive and play reasonably well for the rest of the season. It’s whether continuing to play now will make it more difficult to be fully healed and 100% ready come late February of next year. If he’s going to have surgery on his knee, what’s the recovery time for that? This season is over as far our playoff chances. It’s time to make these decisions with next season in mind. If that means shutting Harp down and having that surgery this month, so be it.

    • David Proctor - Sep 3, 2013 at 11:19 AM

      There’s no benefit to Harper getting the surgery early. It’s a very minor procedure. The recovery time is 3-4 weeks. He’ll be ready well before spring training.

      • Section 222 - Sep 3, 2013 at 11:23 AM

        As long as the surgery he needs is the bursae sack removal as has been reported, that’s right DP. I’m not convinced there aren’t other ailments that need to be addressed (back?, hip?). Hopefully all he needs for those are rest and the time from Oct. 1-Feb. 1 will be enough.

  4. David Proctor - Sep 3, 2013 at 12:02 PM

    The back and hip things seem like aches and pains, not injuries. I could be wrong of course, nobody knows how severe it is, but those haven’t stricken me as anything long-term. Everybody is hurt this time of the year.

  5. Theophilus T.S. - Sep 3, 2013 at 12:29 PM

    There’s a lot of apples and oranges, and maybe apples, oranges and plums, rolling around on the floor. The “bursa” operation has been on the table, so to speak, since at least June. Proctor’s disparagement notwithstanding the “minor procedure” could have serious long-term implications and deserves to be put off as long as possible to be certain it is truly necessary. This “hip injury” is something (relatively) new, though no one could know for certain how long it has been lingering. It could be a hip pointer — something that over the off-season would probably heal by itself — or it could be related to a pinched sciatic nerve (lower back) which would require more vigorous physical therapy. A few weeks ago I believe I heard some speculation that there was some inter-costal (rib) injury arising from a belly-flop for a line drive. I can see how that might affect his gait and have secondary effects.

    The important thing is for the Nats training and medical staff to sort out the serious stuff from the stuff that requires more dramatic intervention. I recognize that many people on this blog lack much confidence in the diagnostic skills of the Nats medical team but — after watching the care with which they have treated Z’mann, Strasburg, Taylor, etc. — it’s difficult to believe they would knowingly send a player out with a condition that could lead to surgery otherwise avoidable.

    The proof will be who trots out to CF/LF tonight. With at least 24 hours to observe/consider Harper’s condition, Johnson will make an informed decision whether Harper plays — whether or not Harper agrees. I choose to believe that the numerous nicks and bruises Harper has played through this season are the cause of his underwhelming season. At this moment, he and Nats fans have to strap it up for the rest of the season and hope that a healthy Harper returns in ST.

    Fn.: Don’t give me grief about using the term “under-whelming” and how “great” Harper’s OBP, Slugging stats, etc., have been. Anybody out there who thought in April Harper was a 20 HR, 50 RBI guy, raise their hands. There is clearly a pre-injury Harper and a post-injury Harper and their nos. must be acknowledged and viewer accordingly.

    • Section 222 - Sep 3, 2013 at 2:32 PM

      Absolutely right on pre and post injury Harper. In the 27 games from April 1 through May 1, the night he ran into the wall in Atlanta, Harper’s slashline was .337/.427/.705/1.133, with 9 HR and 18 RBI. Those are HoF numbers. In the 72 games from From May 2 to the present, .257/.364/.444/.808 with 10 HR and 31 RBIs.

    • Section 222 - Sep 3, 2013 at 4:12 PM

      Just following up on this with Harper’s numbers in the 55 games since he returned from the DL– .272/.377 .460/.837, with 7 HR and 26 RBIs. That’s a very nice line, but certainly not superstar status like his first month.

  6. Ghost of Steve M. - Sep 3, 2013 at 1:54 PM

    A big story line this off-season will be the health of LaRoche, RZim, Harper, Espi, Ramos, and Detwiler.

    I think Detwiler is the most serious for impact on the 2014 team. If you ask the rest of those players about their health they will all give you the same answer that nothing is wrong.

    LaRoche’s dropoff in both offense and defense was enormous. When some here said in April that LaRoche is a slow starter they looked right after his blazing May to June only to fall back in a funk which makes any likelihood of returning to career numbers remote. His defensive range has been off all year.

  7. Faraz Shaikh - Sep 3, 2013 at 2:08 PM

    I think I would have been completely fine with Nats not raising my hopes.

    • NatsNut - Sep 3, 2013 at 7:15 PM

      Yea, I know exactly what you mean, Faraz.

      • Faraz Shaikh - Sep 3, 2013 at 7:19 PM

        It just hurts more now.

  8. Theophilus T.S. - Sep 3, 2013 at 3:17 PM

    Only Nats (Opening Day starting position players) w/ no known significant physical injuries this year are Span, Desmond, LaRoche. How can it be that LaRoche is not impaired in some respect? That’s 57.5 percent of the starting lineup who’ve spent part of the season fighting/working their way back from an injury, 75 percent if LaRoche is deemed somehow injured. It’s tempting to simply attribute the lousy record to injuries but there’ve been too much botched ABs, errors, base-running mistakes, pitching meltdowns for it all to be assigned to fate. Next year’s team must be both healthy and smarter. Perhaps more seaweed, ginkgo biloba in their off-season diets. (Bob Hope’s daughter told me her father’s vitality into his 90s was due to ginkgo biloba so there must be some credibility there.)

  9. Theophilus T.S. - Sep 3, 2013 at 3:20 PM

    With respect to the previous comment, it’s going to be necessary for the next manager and his staff to ride herd on players’ physical condition more closely, and not tolerate situations that arose this season where players were allowed to attempt to “play through” injuries that, in retrospect, clearly hurt the ballclub.

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