For at least the past two games, Bryce Harper has been playing with a slight but noticeable limp. When he ran, he didn’t have the same explosion. On Monday, he hobbled around the batter’s box during an at-bat and appeared to favor one side as he ran out a groundball.
Harper has insisted his left knee, which forced him to miss 31 games this summer, hasn’t been the issue, but acknowledged he has been playing hurt while declining to reveal the source. Following Monday’s game, Johnson said that Harper had been receiving treatment on his hip and the Nationals manager was unhappy he hadn’t known about it. Harper had told Johnson on several occasions that he was fine and able to play.
“I was a little disturbed that I wasn’t informed that he was having some treatment on his hip,” Johnson said. “But every time anybody talks to Harp, he says: ‘I’m fine, I’m fine, I’m fine.’ So I’m going to stick with him.”
Harper still played all nine innings on Monday. He went 1 for 3 with a walk, and started in center field. At one point during the game, Jayson Werth talked to Harper before handing him glove and hat, presumably asking him if he was okay. Asked about his limping after the game, Harper wouldn’t admit to an injury.
“I’m fine,” he said. “Just like I told [Johnson]. If I was hurting I’d come out of the game. I feel good.”
Johnson said he believes Harper will be available on Tuesday. He considered pulling Harper during Monday’s game because of his limp, but the outfielder wouldn’t admit to feeling pain.
“[First base coach Tony] Tarasco asked him and he said he’s okay,” Johnson said. “Werth asked him and he said he can play. So I left him in.”
On Friday, Harper came under criticism for not running as hard as he normally does on a groundball late in a game. The following day, Harper tried to stretch a double into a triple and was thrown out, perhaps a response to the previous discussion about his hustle. Johnson and Harper talked about the incidents on Sunday.
Whether that is a factor in Harper’s insistence on playing despite not being fully healthy is unclear, but he has remained adamant about the team’s hopes of making a playoff push. At this point of the season, many players are playing through nicks, bruises and discomfort.
“We’ve got a month left,” Harper said when asked about his hip. “I’m going to play as hard as I can and just worry about it at the end.”