Davey Johnson planned on giving Bryce Harper a few days off to rest. Since returing from over a month on the DL with a home run in his first at bat last Monday, the 20-year-old outfielder was struggling, going 0 for 18 at the plate and committing two errors in the outfield that led the Washington Nationals' manager to make the decision he announced last night. "I'll probably give Harper a couple days off," Johnson told reporters after the Nats' 8-5 win over the San Diego Padres. "I think he's just fighting himself."
Bursitis in his left knee sidelined Harper and eventually required a cortisone shot and PRP injection before the swelling started to go down, allowing him to begin working his way back. After four rehab games, the second-year major leaguer returned to the Nationals' lineup, but his manager though he was pressing. "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," Johnson said.
"He expects a lot of himself," Johnson 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."
Apparently, however, Harper got in touch with his manager last night and convinced Johnson the best thing for him is to get more at bats and get comfortable as the Washington Post's James Wagner reported this afternoon:
Bryce Harper says he talked to Davey and talked his way back into lineup. Davey wanted him to rest; Bryce says he needs to ABs to get back.— James Wagner (@JamesWagnerWP) July 6, 2013
The Nationals confirmed as much when they released the lineup for this afternoon's 4:05 pm EDT game with the Padres:
#Nationals lineup vs. SDP: Span 8, Desmond 6, Harper 7, Zimmerman 5, LaRoche 3, Werth 9, Rendon 4, Suzuki 2, Zimmermann 1— Nationals PR (@NationalsPR) July 6, 2013
Apparently, as Washington Times' writer Mike Harris wrote on Twitter quoting Davey Johnson's explanation of the reversal, all it took was some subtle persuasion on Harper's part to talk his way back in:
Davey: in his text he said play me or trade me! Since a trade is out if the question I decided to play him— Mike Harris (@WashTimesMike) July 6, 2013
So Harper is back in. The bad news from this afternoon's pregame press conference, Ross Detwiler's once again experiencing back issues and may miss his next scheduled outing:
Ross Detwiler "questionable" to make his start Monday with back discomfort, Davey says. Nats' chances of trading for a starter go up.— Adam Kilgore (@AdamKilgoreWP) July 6, 2013
Detwiler still having lower back pain. Seems unlikely to start Monday. Haren could take that spot with Taylor Jordan staying.— Mark Zuckerman (@ZuckermanCSN) July 6, 2013