An MRI on Bryce Harper’s ailing left hip revealed no structural damage, only inflammation that will keep the outfielder out of the Nationals’ lineup until Wednesday at the earliest, Manager Davey Johnson said.
After Harper experienced sharp pain in his hip while taking batting practice minutes before first pitch Saturday night, he fell to the ground and was scratched from the lineup. Harper flew back to Washington on Sunday morning and visited team medical director Dr. Wiemi Douoguih today for further tests. Harper will take oral inflammatory medication and will not need any injections, such as a cortisone shot.
“Nothing was out of the ordinary,” Johnson said. “So there’s no physical damage in there. He’s obviously got some discomfort and it’s probably from some inflammation. He’ll rest for a couple days and hopefully he’ll be good enough to go.”
Douoguih told the Nationals to give Harprer at least two days of rest, which Johnson took to mean today and Tuesday. Harper will join the Nationals tomorrow in New York, and the Nationals will monitor his progress.
Harper has played through pain for all but the first month of this season. He missed all of June with bursitis in his left knee, which he suffered when he slammed into the wall at Dodger Stadium in mid-May. Harper has felt pain in his hip since then as well, but it intensified last week.
Harper has punched up an .882 OPS this season, which would give him one of the best offensive seasons for a 20-year-old in baseball history. But if the Nationals fall out of the playoff race, it would be worth asking what reason the Nationals would have to keep playing him through pain?
Last year, the Nationals shut down Stephen Strasburg in the middle of a pennant race and for the playoffs to prevent him from getting hurt. And now, they will play Harper as he drags his left leg behind him despite a vanishingly remote chance to make the postseason. Why play him?
“Well, it’s not going to hurt him,” Johnson said. “I mean, you play with a little discomfort all the time. It’s going to be up to him. If he feels like it’s okay, he’ll play. If not, he won’t.”
After Douoguih’s diagnosis, the Nationals have changed the way they are treating Harper’s injury. Last week, head athletic trainer Lee Kuntz called the ailment, “soreness.” Over the weekend, Johnson described the injury as a “sprain.” Today, Johnson said there isn’t a sprain, that it is only inflammation causing Harper’s discomfort.
“I don’t know what caused it,” Johnson said. “I don’t know what’s aggravating it, other than swinging sometimes bothers it. But the previous game, it didn’t look like he was in that much discomfort. He does take a lot of BP, he’s constantly working on his stroke. Hopefully this medication will calm it down and let him finish the rest of the year.”