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Washington Nationals’ prayers answered: Bryce Harper suffers significant bone bruise, but should be back later this season...

Not that a significant bone bruise isn’t serious, but considering how it looked, it’s a positive diagnosis for Nationals’ NL MVP candidate Bryce Harper...

MLB: San Francisco Giants at Washington Nationals Michael Owens-USA TODAY Sports

“Some good news with Harp today,” Mike Rizzo told reporters on Sunday morning in the nation’s capital. He was talking about the injury Bryce Harper suffered when he slipped on first base running out a grounder in Saturday’s rain delayed series opener with the San Francisco Giants.

“On looking at the MRIs, speaking to the doctors, and the orthopedic people here and our medical staff, the good news is that there’s no ligament or tendon damage, which is pretty remarkable in my mind just seeing the type of injury that he had,” Rizzo said.

Harper slipped when he stepped on the wet first base bag, hustling down the line to try to beat out a grounder first, and his left foot slid over the wet bag before coming to a stop on the infield dirt on the far side, causing him hyperextend his left knee and tumble over onto his right shoulder.

“Just trying to hustle down the line and get a knock,” Harper explained.

“Crossed the bag and pretty much felt like I was — like a slip in the shower.

“Went across the bag and stuck the finish, and tumbled over the top of my leg. I was actually happy that I went — instead of standing over the top and coming through, I’m glad it came up and over, so it’s an unfortunate situation that just happened. There’s nothing I can do.”

“There is a significant bone bruise when he hyperextended the knee,” Rizzo continued, providing the official diagnosis, “so although we feel like we dodged a bullet a bit here with any long-term ligament and tendon damage, the bone bruise is something of significance, and we’re going to treat him cautiously and hopefully have him back later on this season.”

Neither Rizzo or Harper was willing to discuss any sort of timetable for the 24-year-old right fielder’s return to the lineup.

“We have no timeline whatsoever,” Rizzo said. “We’ll treat it day-to-day, we’ll treat it cautiously.

“We put ourselves in a position that we can treat it cautiously and we’ll continue down that road.”

“If I feel good I’m going to go,” Harper said. “If I don’t feel good — you gotta know how I feel and what I do and how my mindset is, so I’m going to push it to the limit and that’s how I’ve always been, so I’m never scared to put force into it or anything like that. I’m going to take some time to definitely let it heal and I want to be at 100% whenever I play, and the World Series is definitely on my mind, playoffs, things like that, one award is on my mind as well, if you guys know what that one is, it’s a big one to me. Definitely team accolades and things like that come in front of my own, but that’s something I’m striving towards.”

The fact that there was even discussion about when Harper might return, after the way it looked initially, and the way Harper reacted, had to be considered a positive outcome.

“We’re optimistic that he should be back by the end of the year, yes,” Rizzo said.

“We don’t know how long he’s going to be out, but he will be back before the end of the season,” Dusty Baker told reporters after the first game of Sunday afternoon’s doubleheader with the San Francisco Giants..

“He’s young. He probably mends well, hasn’t had very many injuries to this day,” Baker said.

San Francisco Giants v Washington Nationals Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images

“We’re not going to rush him back, but we expect him to be back in time for the stretch drive and to be healthy. That’s what we want, we want him healthy.”

Rizzo said Harper wanted the MRI done as soon as possible on Sunday so that he would know the extent of the damage if there was any.

“When I went down there after the game last [night] — or this morning, I guess it was — he was moving around on it, he was walking on it, it’s weight-bearing, which was a good sign for everybody, and he kind of insisted last night that he wanted to get the MRI done and get it behind him, and we did that and late last night we met again with our medical people and the good part of the news was that there was no ligament or tendon damage, which was a significant part of the prognosis.”

All things considered, Baker, a bone bruise, while a significant injury, was better than the alternatives.

“That’s a big difference in all of our minds,” the veteran manager said.

“Ten days or two weeks is a lot better than — you were thinking possibly the whole rest of the season and postseason, so evidently prayers worked, there are a lot of people I’m sure that were praying for Bryce and I know we all were that it wasn’t as serious as it appeared.”

It is serious though to be clear.

“It’s the byproduct of a hyperextension where the bones collide in the knee, and the doctors say that because of the athleticism, the youth, and Harp is extremely flexible in his joints — [that] was something that worked in his favor in this case,” Rizzo said.

Harper told reporters he wants to get back as soon as possible, but not until he’s 100% again.

“We’re not going to rush or anything like that,” Harper said, “so if I feel good I’m going to play, if I don’t feel good then I’m not going out there and play. I want to be at 100% as I go out there.

“I’ve played through injury before and I’m not going to do that anymore in my career.

“Of course, if we were in the playoffs right now, I’d tape it up and get out there and hobble the best I could and do that, but as of right now — as a team I think we’re doing a great job. We have a pretty sufficient lead in August. Of course that doesn’t mean anything until you get there, so I mean, but it does help out the fact that I can sit on it a little bit and let it heal and let it rest and get to where I need to be.”