Bryce Harper could return to the Nationals’ lineup tomorrow

Toni L. Sandys/TWP

Toni L. Sandys/TWP

Ian Desmond knelt on one knee outside the batting cage this afternoon at Citi Field. He watched Bryce Harper spray line drives and launch pitches into the upper deck. One ball cracked off the Wise billboard. Another rattled around in the seats halfway between the façade and the upper concourse above the second deck. “Judging by his BP,” Desmond said as he walked off the field, “I think his hip is fine.”

Harper rejoined the Nationals today after an MRI Monday revealed inflammation and no structural damage in his left hip. He shagged fly balls in the outfield and took batting practice as head athletic trainer Lee Kuntz watched him from the dugout. So long as Harper’s workout went well and the Nationals medically clear him, he will return to the lineup Wednesday.

“He can run around, take batting practice, stuff like that,” Manager Davey Johnson said. “If he can do that, that would be good for him and his cause to play tomorrow.”

The Nationals were mainly concerned about any pain Harper felt when he swung. Medical director Dr. Wiemi Douoguih prescribed Harper anit-inflammatory medication for the pain in his hip, which he played through for at least a week before a painful swing floored him as he took swings in a cage 10 minutes before first pitch Saturday night in Miami.

“If he works out here and does everything he’s able to do, is OK, I’ll talk with the manager and we’ll go from there,” Kuntz said. “I’m sure the medication is starting to kick in, the anti-inflammatory stuff that Wiemi gave him, and he’ll feel better. We’ve just got to try to manage it from here and get him through the rest of the year.”

Harper said he could not comment on hip on the instruction of General Manager Mike Rizzo. Harper was polite in dealing with reporters who approached him at his locker and appeared to be in good spirits.

Johnson has worried about Harper’s penchant for taking too many swings to prepare for a game, which may have led to the inflammation, an injury born out of overuse.

“I’ll have a little conversation with him and [hitting coach] Rick Schu and all the guys,” Johnson said. “It’s kind of hard to monitor, because these guys sneak off in these cages when nobody’s around. We’ll try to hold him back.”

“I guess that may be part of his growing process as a player, figuring out how much he can and can’t do,” Kuntz said. “Let’s not forget he wants to play. He plays hard. So as he gets older he’ll figure out ‘Hey, I don’t need to swing as much today.’ ”

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