Both Washington Nationals’ General Manager Mike Rizzo and Manager Dusty Baker provided updates on 24-year-old outfielder Bryce Harper today, as the hard-hitting slugger does what he can to get back in the lineup before the start of the NLDS.
Rizzo was on 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s The Sports Junkies this morning, and was, of course, asked how things are going for Harper, who injured his left knee and calf slipping on a slick first base bag back on August 12th in the nation’s capital.
Harper took part in a simulated game in Atlanta on Tuesday, and Rizzo talked this morning about how he came out of the first live-ish action since the injury.
“Harp came out looking good,” Rizzo said. “The anchor leg, his left leg, which is Harp’s back leg, his power leg, came through it fine.
“We’ll see how he feels today which will be very, very important and see where we take it from there.
“He ran bases yesterday, which is good and threw from the outfield, so he’s slowly and cautiously getting back into a routine and depending on how he progresses we’ll see where we take it from there, and hopefully he can get a couple of games of live at bats under his belt before we have that four-day break before the playoffs start.”
Rizzo told the Junkies he remains optimistic Harper will be able to return in time for the start of the NLDS in early October, if note beforehand, though the Nationals will continue to proceed with caution.
“We’ve been optimistic about it,” Rizzo explained. “I think he’s on schedule. We’re being cautious with him. All these staged simulations are fine, until the bell rings, and you’ve got to be out there and use your instincts and be able to slide and dive back and that type of thing, we have to take a cautious watch on it.”
All things considered, however, the Nats’ GM said he was happy with the progress they have seen from Harper.
“We feel good about where he’s at,” Rizzo said. “Most importantly, and what I go by, more importantly, is he feels good about it, and absolutely no restriction of the leg, he’s not favoring it, his gait was good as you saw when he ran.
“He’s touching bases, reaching out and touching bases with his left foot and his right foot, which is important because you don’t want to be covering and favoring one side of your body.”
So what’s the next step? Baker addressed that question in a pregame interview with reporters before the start of the Nationals’ second game with the Braves tonight in SunTrust Park.
Harper, according to reports from Atlanta, took a full round of batting practice and ran the bases again today.
“He’s going to take tomorrow off,” Baker said. “I didn’t think he was going to hit today, but he did. So, he worked pretty hard. Like I said yesterday, he’s a little winded, he’s out of shape even though as much work as he’s been doing, there’s nothing like running on the baseball field.
“So he’s on a crash course to try to come back as soon as possible, but we don’t want to rush him too much to hurt him, and so he’s doing — like I said, it was a miracle, he’s doing well.”
Will they send Harper to West Palm Beach, to work with minor leagues in Instructional League games/simulated games? Baker said on Tuesday night that the plan was to do another simulated game on the next stop on the Nationals’ road trip in New York, and he said tonight there is a possibility of Harper going to Florida.
“Yeah, but we haven’t discussed it yet. And so we did import a couple guys from the minor leagues to come up and throw to him, so we’ll see how his progress is. We just don’t want to jump the gun too much just because what we’ve seen.
“The tendency is to rush him, but you’ve got to refrain from that and we’ve got to refrain from him rushing himself, because he’s been out what? Two months now... almost.”