Heading into Sunday afternoon’s series finale with the Braves in Atlanta’s Turner Field, Bryce Harper was 10 for 25 (.400 AVG) with three doubles, eight walks, a home run and seven runs scored since returning from a few days off for a neck issue on August 14th.
He homered for the 22nd time this season on a first-pitch slider from Joel De La Cruz in the fourth, sending a two-run blast 411-ish feet to right field to put the Nationals up 4-0 at the time, in what ended up a 7-6 loss.
The Nationals issued an update on his stats after his homer: 11-for-27 (.407), 3 2B, 2 HR, 8 BB, 1 SB, 11 RBIs, 8 runs scored.
After a big swing and miss in the seventh, however, Harper walked away from the plate momentarily and appeared uncomfortable.
He went down swinging and briefly reached for the area between his shoulder and his neck as he did, drawing the attention of Atlanta’s broadcast team.
Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo and Nats’ skipper Dusty Baker challenged claims that Harper was dealing with anything but a neck issue when a published report by SI.com’s Tom Verducci suggested there was something going on with his shoulder.
Verducci, of course, wasn’t the only one who heard it was more than his neck:
Hearing that Harper's trouble more a combination of neck/right shoulder trouble than just a stiff neck, as Tom Verducci wrote.— Chelsea Janes (@chelsea_janes) August 12, 2016
This past week, Jon Heyman, at FanRag, reported that he too heard that the 23-year-old defending NL MVP was dealing with more than a stiff neck.
“Bryce Harper’s neck injury was so bad he was starting to feel some pain [in] the shoulder,” Heyman wrote, “but he’s back on the field, playing through it.”
Noting that Verducci was the first to report on Harper’s “shoulder pain”, Heyman added that, “Harper and the team higher-ups aren’t commenting on the shoulder part of it.”
Harper finished Sunday’s game with 16 doubles, 22 HRs and a .246/.386/.459 line in 112 games and 487 plate appearances this season.
When he returned to the lineup, he told reporters that he came back when he thought he could help.
“I didn’t think I could help the team at that point when I was hurt,” Harper told MASN’s Dan Kolko.
“I came in the other day like I said and felt like I could contribute and really helped the team.”
After a 2 for 5 night in the series finale in Atlanta, Harper is 12 for 30 (.400) with three doubles, two home runs, eight walks, one steal, 11 RBIs and eight runs scored in eight games since he’s returned.
“Bryce is really swinging it good,” Baker told reporters after the finale with the Braves.
“That’s very positive, very.”