It has been two weeks and one day since Bryce Harper did not start for the only game of his major league tenure, when Davey Johnson rested Harper against the Red Sox because of a sore back.
Nothing would indicate his back is acting up again — Harper is hitting .298/.377/.426 since. And his back looked fine yesterday on that ridiculous double, when he hit a chopper up the middle, never stopped around first dove headfirst into second base.
But, like pretty much every player around the league in late June, Harper is still dealing with soreness that requires regular attention. Johnson said Harper still gets treatment on his back on a daily basis, including trainers using tape on his lower back to ease tension.
“I’ve seen him with all kinds of contraptions on there,” Johnson said. “I don’t know who’s dreaming them up. But right now, it’s more preventative. Anybody who plays as hard as he does, he’s been running the bases quite a bit, sliding in head first. As long as he doesn’t aggravate it, but he’s taking good care of it.”
This issue has not come up much, but perhaps it should: Does Harper, perhaps the most valuable asset in the majors given his age and ability, play too hard at times? Harper throws his body at bases and into walls with abandon, and sprints to first base even on comebacks to the mound. It is part of what makes him such a talented player. But are there times when Harper — for no other than reason than self-preservation over a marathon season — should dial back his hustle?
Harper would surely shoot down that notion. And so did Johnson.
“One thing I never try to do is turn down somebody’s aggression,” Johnson said. “It’s hard enough to try to turn it up. Anybody that’s aggressive and plays all out, that’s the way I played, I like to see that. Through experience in ballparks, he’s going to know warning tracks and where the fence is. Just from experience he’s going to learn that when he gets on that warning track he doesn’t have to be going 100 miles an hour. That all comes with experience.”