Bryce Harper remains out, Nationals remain confident he has no concussion


(Stephen Dunn / Getty Images)

Outfielder Bryce Harper remained out of the Nationals lineup with soreness tonight, two days after his violent collision with the right field fence at Dodger Stadium. Harper, unlike Tuesday, warmed up with the Nationals during batting practice, taking a full complement of swings and fielding balls in the outfield.

Manager Davey Johnson said Harper could possibly be available to pinch hit tonight and could “probably” return tomorrow in San Diego, depending how he felt after today’s workout.

“It’s a building process,” Nationals head athletic trainer Lee Kuntz said. “He felt okay yesterday after he ate. He came out did activity today. He’s doing stuff now, and he feels okay. So we’ll stack blocks every day. Plus, he hurts all over from where he hit the wall.”

Harper has received no further concussion tests since Tuesday morning, but the nature of how the Nationals concluded Harper did not suffer a concussion came to light.

Harper underwent a Sport Concussion Assessment Tool test, or a SCAT 2, both Monday night after he hit the wall and Tuesday morning. The tests, Kuntz said, were performed by an outside physician.

“It’s a physical evaluation,” Kuntz said. “It’s balance. It’s other concussion tests that emergency doctors do. If you look it up online, you’ll see all the major sports use it now.”

Harper complained of nausea Tuesday afternoon at Dodger Stadium, which the Nationals did not take as a serious red flag. “A lot of times [it could be] I think, yes,” Kuntz said. “But let me tell you something: that cab drive down 110 [from Pasadena] made me nauseous.”

Johnson had previously said Harper had been given an ImPACT test, but Kuntz clarified it was actually the SCAT 2 test. In 2011, MLB instituted new guidelines for testing players for concussions after they suffered head trauma.

“I wasn’t worried about the concussion,” Johnson said. “He got hit on the chin. Nobody gets a concussion from getting hit on the chin. You might get knocked out. You don’t usually get a concussion from that. He’s got a few aches and pains, but he’s young. He’ll probably be alright today.”

General Manager Mike Rizzo was present, he said, when Harper underwent both tests. Rizzo had little worry about Harper’s condition when he visited the Nationals’ medical room Monday after the collision. Rizzo was relieved when he saw Harper had only a cut, which required 11 stitches, on his chin and that he was “lucid and joking around.”

Over the past two days, Rizzo has heard the refrain that Harper needs to dial back his all-out style on the field. Like Harper, Rizzo rejected the idea.

“I wouldn’t change the way he plays one bit,” Rizzo said. “First of all, to say he plays too hard, I don’t even understand what that means. Now, he can’t be running into walls like that. I’ll say that. With experience, that’ll change and that will stop.

“To say because he ran into the wall that he plays too hard and he needs to throttle it down, that’s not what the great ones do. The great ones control it. But I always say I want him to play 100 miles an hour with his hair on fire and get after it like he does. I wouldn’t change one thing with the way he plays, other than with experience, he won’t be in those situations. But he’s not he only one who’s ran into the wall and got hurt.”

At Class A Potomac, on a rehab assignment, the Nationals’ most experienced outfielder gave his opinion on the matter. Jayson Werth saw a need for Harper to control the way he plays in the outfield, and to not endanger a promising career.

“Once the word came that everything was OK, I thought it was fairly hilarious,” Werth said. “But we definitely need to get that under control because we don’t want to see any players running face first into fences especially a guy like Bryce that potentially has a long, good career ahead of him. And I’ve said this many times before, Bryce has a lot to learn. Again, I think it’s fairly apparent that he’s got a lot to learn.”

Adam Kilgore covers the Nationals for The Washington Post.
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Adam Kilgore · May 15, 2013