Bryce Harper returns to the Nationals lineup, meets Johnny Manziel

Johnny Football. (Lenny Ignelzi / AP)
Johnny Football. (Lenny Ignelzi / AP)

Bryce Harper returned to the Nationals lineup tonight, still feeling banged up from his oft-replayed collision with the right field wall in Dodger Stadium. Harper will play left field tonight, with Roger Bernadina taking over in right.

“He’s a tough kid. I talked to him,” Manager Davey Johnson said. “We got here early. I said, ‘Let me know. I know you’re hurting. But if you’re hurting so bad it’s going to hold you way back, I’ll give you another day.’ But he wanted to play. So he’s in the lineup. I wanted to see him.”

Last night, Harper said his body felt “terrible,” even after pinch-hitting in the ninth inning. This afternoon, he said he really hadn’t improved all that much.

“I don’t think it’s gonna be any time soon that I don’t feel it,” Harper said. “Just go out there and do what I can.”

Harper feels he can manage the soreness related to his injury. Despite feel stiff, he said he didn’t feel affected by his bruised shoulder, knee and abdomen at the plate last night.

“I’m hoping” it doesn’t affect him, Harper said. “I hope it doesn’t really drag on or linger. Just going to try to go do what I can do and see how I feel. If I’m sore or anything I’m not going to play and if I feel good, then I’ll play.”

Harper received a pregame pick-me-up from an unlikely source: Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel. The Texas A&M quarterback is in town working out with renowned throwing coach George Whitfield, and he came to Petco Park to throw out the first pitch. During stretching, Harper and Manziel shared a brief half-hug and a handshake.

Manziel and Harper met online and struck up a friendship, although they had never met in person until today.

“I clicked on his Twitter one day,” Manziel said. “It happened to say he was following me. I followed him back. He shot me a message. I shot him a message. I got his phone number, and he texted me. We text three or four months, something like that. He texted me last night, ‘I hear you’re in San Diego?’ us 20- and 21-year-olds have to stick together that are in this type of deal.”

Manziel, like Harper, has been something of an athletic lightning rod. In his view, though, Harper had it tougher.

“I can’t imagine,” Manziel said. “He had it at the age of 14 when he was 6-3 and huge and just hitting 500-foot bombs. He’s had it for a lot longer than I have. He’s at the top right now. He’s at the highest level you can get to. I’m still working on that.”

Johnson, a fellow Aggie, posed for a photo with Manziel. After he watched Manziel take swings during batting practice, he offered a curt scouting report. “All field, no hit,” Johnson said.

>>> As for the Nationals’ outfield: they will receive a reinforcement in the outfield, although it may end up taking longer than originally thought for Jayson Werth to return. Werth did not play in Class A Potomac on a rehab assignment as planned tonight because he felt “slight tightness” in his hamstring, Johnson said. Werth visited his personal doctor in New York.

Still, after text messaging with Werth, Johnson said he expected Werth to join the Nationals on Saturday in San Diego. Werth, Johnson said, plans to play in a minor league rehab game Friday.

Adam Kilgore covers national sports for the Washington Post. Previously he served as the Post's Washington Nationals beat writer from 2010 to 2014.
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Adam Kilgore · May 16, 2013

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