The talk tonight should have been about the Washington Nationals' 8-5, 10-hit win over the visiting San Diego Padres, but instead, after Davey Johnson's comments in his post game press conference, the big story is that Bryce Harper is likely to have the rest of the weekend off as he tries to get comfortable on the field and at the plate after returning from over a month on the DL with bursitis in his left knee.
The 20-year-old, 2010 no.1 overall pick astonished again when he homered in his first at bat back from the DL this past Monday against Milwaukee, but after going 0 for 4 tonight with a sac fly RBI he was 0 for 18 since that home run with seven Ks over that stretch including a three-pitch strikeout tonight in the sixth inning in which the second-year major league looked as lost at the plate as he did during the prolonged slump in the middle of his rookie season.
"I'll probably give Harper a couple days off," Davey Johnson told reporters after tonight's game. "I think he's just fighting himself." Harper's struggled since he first injured his leg running into the right field wall on April 30th on a leaping attempt to bring back a Tim Hudson home run in Turner Field. A few weeks later the collision with the fenced scoreboard in right field in Los Angeles on May 13th made it worse and after he exacerbated the damage on a few hard slides in the outfield and on the basepaths in Nationals Park, Harper finally had to shut it down and allow the knee to heal.
Harper visited Dr. James Andrews, who confirmed the team's doctors' diagnosis of bursitis in the left knee and administered a PRP injection and cortisone shot in the second week of June, on the 11th.
The Nationals' outfielder returned to the field on June 27th and following four rehab games split between High-A Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg, Harper returned to the majors on July 1st. Davey Johnson said his outfielder was both physically and mentally tired. "I think probably both," he told reporters. "He's just grinding too hard."
"Putting too much pressure on himself? Too aggressive?" a reporter asked.
"All of the above," the Nats' 70-year-old skipper responded. "Coming back from the long [layoff] and I think he hasn't had much [of a] break when he came back, I just need to back off him a little bit."
"So he'll be off Saturday and Sunday?"
"Yeah, probably," Johnson said.
"He expects a lot of himself," the manager explained, "And I think, coming back from that long layoff, he's just not as relaxed as you'd like to see him. He's probably not 100% physically either."
Johnson said this would be a good time to rest Harper while they play two more at home before a seven-game road trip to Philadelphia and Miami.
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