It’s hard for Bryce Harper not think back to April, when his second major league season was simple and dominant and painless. On April 29, Harper was hitting .356/.437/.744. He might have been the best player in baseball. The next night, he leapt into the right field fence at Turner Field and bruised the left side of his body, and his season really has not been the same since.
“I mean, it’s been a crappy year in that aspect,” Harper said. “I think having that first month that I did and hitting the wall and hitting another wall and hitting another wall, it wasn’t a lot of fun. Hopefully I won’t hit as many walls next year, and maybe I’ll learn from that. But that’s just the way I play. Maybe got to mellow it down a little bit and try to play 162 or 150 games and see where I’m at. I’m going to try to play these last 20 games as hard as I can and I’ve got a month off after that. We’ll see where we’re at there.”
After he worked out Tuesday afternoon with no apparent complications from hip inflammation, Harper will return to the Nationals’ lineup Wednesday night for the Nationals’ final 18 games. The pain in his left hip dissipated after two days of rest and anti-inflammatory medication.
“I’m excited about that,” Harper said after the Nationals’ 6-3 victory over the Mets. “I think it was nice to be able to go and get a clear mind of what was happening and why I was hurting and things like that. Hopefully I can get through these last 20 games and see how I feel at the end.”
Harper revealed he started feeling pain in his hip in Detroit during the Nationals’ final series in July. He could not point to one cause, other than the wear and tear from baseball’s grind. All of Harper’s injury problems this year trace back to April and mid-May, when he crashed into the outfield wall in Atlanta and then, more viciously, the fence at Dodger Stadium.
Harper will try, finally, to move past those moments in the season’s last three weeks. He started with batting practice Wednesday afternoon, crushing balls into the upper deck at Citi Field.
“I was trying to go in there and try to just see what I could do and see if it was hurting and take some swings that were a little ferocious so I could feel how it was going to feel doing it at 100 percent,” Harper said. “Of course, the game is a lot more fierce, especially if I’m going to face [Zack] Wheeler tomorrow. That’s something that is going to be a huge thing for me and see how I feel tomorrow during that game. We go from there.”