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Nationals' Wednesday Night Lineup: Bryce Harper, Ian Desmond Sit vs Pirates

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Bryce Harper's struggled at the plate since returning from the DL and he gets the night off tonight in the third game of three with the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates, but Washington Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo and manager Davey Johnson both said today it's not an injury keeping Harper out.

Joy R. Absalon-US PRESSWIRE

Given that Bryce Harper has struggled at the plate since returning from the DL, with a .214/.329/.329 line, three doubles, a triple and a home run in his last 19 games and 85 plate appearances, and considering the 20-year-old Washington Nationals' outfielder has a .169/.268/.296 line in 42 games and 83 plate appearances against LHPs, it is probably a good time to give Harper a rest tonight when the Nats face lefty Francisco Liriano and the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Asked about Harper's issues at the plate and if he was still injured this morning on 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s The Sports Junkies, Davey Johnson hinted/said he might have to give Harper a night off, but just to get him a rest.

"I told him just do what you do," Davey Johnson said, "It would be like telling Pete Rose, 'Don't slide headfirst.'" - Davey Johnson on Bryce Harper sliding headfirst

"I might have to rest him today," Johnson said, "He came in after the game and iced down his knee again. I think it was that steal in the first inning, the headfirst slide. He's arguably my best hitter. And they're going to pay more attention to him. They're going to pitch him tougher and any time there's a chance to bring in a left-hander he's going to see it."

Harper continues to slide headfirst, Johnson said, "... because that's just who he is."

"Have you told him to slide feet first?" a Junkie asked.

"I told him just do what you do," the Nats' skipper said, "It would be like telling Pete Rose, 'Don't slide headfirst.'"

Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo was asked about Harper's knee in the general manager's own appearance on the Nats' flagship radio station this morning. Rizzo told hosts Holden Kushner and Danny Rouhier that Harper icing his knee after the game was just daily maintenance.

"He's running extremely well. The power is there, you see in BP, and he's stealing bases and he's doing his thing." - Mike Rizzo on Bryce Harper on 106.7 the FAN

"He's healthy," Rizzo said, "He's running extremely well. I think I got him 4.05 [seconds] to first base a couple days ago. So he's running extremely well. The power is there, you see in BP, and he's stealing bases and he's doing his thing. He missed 31 games or 41 games, something like that and he's still trying to get his rhythm at the plate and once he does and once he gets locked in, look out. And that's what we're waiting for..."

Harper was icing his knee after last night's, but as Rizzo explained, "His treatment, after -- post game -- is to ice his knee. And it may be a little sore because he dove around a little bit, slid a couple times yesterday, so that's maintenance on his knee."

Harper told CSNWashington/NatsInsider.com's Mark Zuckerman that his knee is fine:

Ian Desmond gets the night off as well and Anthony Rendon gets his first major league start at short:

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