Bryce Harper passed the first real test, getting through a major league game last night in Citizens Bank Park after over a month of rehabbing from the significant bone bruise and calf strain in his left leg. The big test, as both Harper and Nationals’ skipper Dusty Baker told reporters last night, will be seeing how Harper’s leg reacts to the first game action in 45 days.
“I’ll talk to him and then I’ll find out how he feels,” Baker told reporters when asked if they would ramp things up tonight in the series finale with the Philadelphia Phillies.
“Hopefully today was a very good test for him,” Baker said, “because you know, one of the main problems of an injury is psychologically how do you feel and do you feel that you’re not going to hurt it again, so he’s tested it and we’ll see how he feels tomorrow.”
Harper made three trips to the plate, going 0 for 2 with a walk on the night in the 4-1 loss to the Phillies, and said afterwards that it was good to see a number of pitches in live action.
“I was trying to go up there, get a pitch over the plate,” Harper said, “and wasn’t able to the first at bat [a walk], but got a couple I could hit the second AB and third AB as well, so felt good, try to see what I feel like tomorrow and try to get back out there.”
As of last night’s postgame interview, Harper said he came through his first game since August 12th feeling fine.
“Just try to get past tonight and see what I feel like tomorrow,” he said. “If I feel good then I’ll play, if I don’t then I’ll take a day and see how I feel that next day in D.C.”
Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies this morning that in spite of the late date of Harper’s return to the lineup, he thinks the 24-year-old will have enough at bats to get his timing back before the start of the postseason.
“He’s had 40 games off,” Rizzo said, “45 days he hasn’t played, so he’ll get all of his at bats. The good thing is he’ll be able to shake the rust off and move around and do baseball activities and use his instincts and be an instinctive player again.
“I think that’s the biggest hurdle that players have when they come off injuries, is in their own minds knowing that they can do said activity.”
Harper did have to test his leg at least once in last night’s game, on a two-out double to right in the bottom of the first. He tracked it down, made the play, and threw it in without incident.
“Right away Harp has to make a bursting move,” Rizzo said, “go to the corner, get the ball, spin and throw, utilize the leg and push off, and that type of thing. He handled that test very, very well. He went into the corner, there was no hesitancy or anything like that and really showed a good burst, good speed, he spun and threw and made a good throw to second base.
“I think there will be enough at bats for him to get his eye back, and get his timing down and we’ll see.
“As long as he feels strong and healthy after the season’s over we’ll have four days to do whatever we have to do to get ready for the playoffs and I feel good about our chances.”
Harper is apparently good enough to go again tonight.