The celebration of Bryce Harper’s return will have to wait at least another day. It does sound like the plan was to bring the 24-year-old outfielder back for the first game of three with the Philadelphia Phillies on Monday night, as reported by a number of news outlets, but according to what Nationals’ manager Dusty Baker told reporters before Washington’s series opener in Citizens Bank Park, it was flu-like symptoms that kept Harper from returning to the field for the first time since August 12th.
“He woke up early this morning with some flu-like symptoms,” Baker explained before the Nationals and Phillies started their series.
“So we’re giving him some fluids and trying to get him better, so it just postpones his appearance on the field, so we’ll reevaluate that tomorrow, and make an assessment.”
While it was a no doubt disappointing development, for Harper and fans alike, it was also a blow to the Nats’ plan to build the outfielder up in time and get ABs before he plays in the NLDS, provided he doesn’t suffer any setbacks.
Baker said that the plan is to build Harper up like they’d do it in Spring Training, with a gradually increase in workload across a few games.
“That’s exactly how I’ll play it because this is, in essence, Spring Training for him,” Baker explained, as quoted by MASN’s Byron Kerr.
“I just think it’s a miracle that we are even talking about him. This is what we prayed for. A lot of people had well wishes and great thoughts for Bryce. We just want to thank the people out there that had the well wishes and prayed for Bryce to come back, (to) have a chance to come back.”
Though missing another day (at least, depending how he feels) is not ideal, Baker said that how quickly someone can get their timing down at the plate and get comfortable is an an individual thing.
“It varies per person,” Baker explained.
“It depends how many moveable parts you have, how simple your swing is. I saw Benito Santiago — [he] was out an extended period of time, he didn’t go out at all, and you never knew he was out, or a guy like Barry Bonds probably wouldn’t need as much time, or Joey Votto, those kind of guys who have a very simple kind of swing.
“Bryce doesn’t have as many moveable parts as [Ryan Zimmerman], but he has more than most. So we’ll just have to see.”
Will Harper be in the lineup on Tuesday?
“There’s a possibility,” Baker said after the Nationals’ 3-1 win over the Phillies.
“We just have to see how he feels tomorrow, because you hate to waste these days, but you also at the same time hate to push him out there when he’s not ready, and so hopefully it was just an overnight thing and he’ll be hopefully ready tomorrow.”