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Washington Nationals injury update: Will Bryce Harper return in 2017?

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Mike Rizzo, Dusty Baker, and Bryce Harper talk about the injury to Harper’s knee and the possibility of the 24-year-old slugger returning at some point this season.

Miami Marlins v Washington Nationals Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Dusty Baker has been playing Jayson Werth in right now that the veteran outfielder is back off a prolonged stint on the Disabled List. Werth started in right field in each of his two games back off the DL, and Baker said that he’ll get some time out there while the Washington Nationals wait for NL MVP candidate Bryce Harper to return.

Harper, who suffered a bone bruise when he hyperextended his left knee slipping on a wet first base bag earlier this month in Nationals Park, told reporters on Wednesday that he’d also suffered a strained calf on the play.

Harper, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman, said he was going to do, “... what’s best for this organization, what’s best for myself,” and didn’t want to make things worse by rushing back.

“I don’t want to come back and pop something and have to have surgery, or something goes bad. ... Just trying to take it day-by-day and worry about what I can each day I come in here, support the guys around the clubhouse and do what I can do.”

Baker told reporters, as quoted on MLB.com, that though he didn’t want to consider the possibility that Harper might not make it back this season, he had to.

"I hate the thought of him not being around," Baker said, "but you've got to make those plans."

There’s still time for Harper to heal and get in at bats before the end of the regular season, but Baker acknowledged that there are no guarantees.

"We've got [a while] before we holler 'doomsday,'" Baker said. "We've got a month to go, and then we'll see."

Earlier in the day on Wednesday, Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo talked to 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies about Harper’s rehab and the possibility he’ll be back in time to help in the postseason.

“Things haven’t changed,” Rizzo said, reiterating the initial prognosis that Harper would be able to play again this season.

“We’re very optimistic that he’ll play in the postseason, he’ll get some at bats at the end of the regular season to prepare himself for the postseason, but hey, these are injuries, you never know what’s going to happen, but we’re optimistic.

“Our medical people are on top of things, and he’s progressing like we want him to and he’s on schedule, but when we talk about a bone bruise, a lot of people think, including myself in the beginning he bruised a bone, you get hit with a pitch you get a bruise.

“This is much more delicate than a typical bone bruise,” Rizzo explained.

“You saw what that hyperextension of the knee did, those bones in that knee hit together and it’s painful and it’s problematic to do some things.

“He’s moving around easier and easier right now and he’s doing his upper and lower body workouts right now and he’s in the weight room and he’s keeping in great condition and we’re rehabbing and that’s kind of the extent it.”

Immediately after the injury, Harper said he wanted to make sure he was 100% healed when he returned to the field.

“I’m going to take some time to definitely let it heal and I want to be at 100% whenever I play,” Harper told reporters after the injury.

“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.”

Rizzo was asked on Wednesday if it was possible Harper could return at anything less than 100%.

“We don’t want him to go out and perform if he’s going to further exacerbate the injury, obviously,” Rizzo said.

“We want him to play up to his capabilities, if he’s healthy and able and pain free and the doctors and Harp give the green light we’ll certainly let him play and we ask with our players that they be honest with their condition and he always is, but let’s face it, you’re going to have to do a lot to keep him out of the lineup come playoff time, and like I said, we’re not going down that road, we’re optimistic that he’s going to be available, and that’s how we’re planning for it.”