SI.com’s Tom Verducci, who, you might remember, wrote the SI cover story on Bryce Harper that brought the then 16-year-old slugger to the attention of the nation back in 2009, reported earlier this week that a source told him Harper, out of the lineup with a neck issue (spasms, stiffness), “... has been playing through a right shoulder injury for the past two months.”
“The injury affects the area at the top and back of his shoulder and at the base of his neck. Harper has been receiving treatment for the injury, the source said, including cupping therapy and Active Release Technique.”
The response from the Nationals, and GM Mike Rizzo, in particular, was swift, with Rizzo addressing the report directly when he spoke on the field in Nationals Park on Friday.
"The report is inaccurate," Rizzo said, as quoted by CSN Mid-Atlantic writer Chase Hughes.
"Tom Verducci is wrong. I just asked Bryce Harper and the training staff and our medical staff. He hasn't had a right shoulder injury. He's got a stiff neck."
Harper remained out of the lineup on Friday and Saturday night, though Nats’ skipper Dusty Baker said he was available to pinch hit, if necessary.
“Well, last night he was available,” Baker told reporters on Saturday afternoon, “but I didn’t want to really use him and so right now he’s still day-to-day.
“He’s being analyzed by our people and it is what is, what I told you. I mean, I’ve heard all kind of reports, I think people are — I think it’s kind of careless, reporting when you’re reporting something that’s not even true.
“It’s not his arm. If it was I would have told you by now. And so, it is indeed he has a spasm in his neck and sometimes you have to wait until it lets you go.
“I’m hoping that it lets him go pretty soon, because you don’t want to be without him, you don’t want to be short, and then you don’t want to kind of use him in a game in case you might have to, a worst scenario, put him on the DL and backdate the time, because right now ... he’s been out five days and six games, and so if I use him and something did go wrong, adversely, then it would start from tonight, or tomorrow. So we’re doing all we can, he’s doing all he can to try to alleviate this problem.”
"Bryce is day-to-day,” Rizzo added, when he met with reporters, including CSN Mid-Atlantic’s Chase Hughes in a separate interview on Saturday.
“We haven't discussed disabled list about him today. He did have an MRI today, and it was clean, so that's good news. He feels good about it — I just got done talking with him."
Asked why they were not discussing putting Harper on the DL, Rizzo said it was really simple, telling reporters, including Washington Post writer Chelsea Janes, "... if he can play tonight, I want him to play tonight."
Harper was not in the lineup when it was originally released, but he was added...
Here’s the Nationals lineup for today’s game against the Braves:
Stop the presses: New #Nats' lineup w/ Harper:— federalbaseball (@federalbaseball) August 14, 2016
While you wait for the start of tonight’s game, listen to last night’s edition of Nats Nightly: