The pain and soreness in Bryce Harper’s knee has vanished after a winter of twice- or thrice-daily rehab, but its cause lingers. He heard the jokes and the mockery all winter, even at the place he went to shed the effects of the injury.
“Every single day I went into therapy, somebody said, ‘Hey, don’t run into a wall,’ ” Harper said Wednesday. “Yeah, dummy, you don’t walk across the street when there’s cars coming.”
On the day before the Nationals’ first full-squad workout, with a T-shirt that read “PED FREE” covering his muscled frame, Harper declared himself healed from offseason left knee surgery and ready to attack his third major league season. He praised his new manager. He revealed that he weighs 220 pounds after an offseason of weight training and bike riding. He tried put the most traumatic moment of his 2013 season behind him.
“It’s over,” Harper said. “Babe Ruth ran into the wall in D.C. in 1920-something and knocked himself out, so I’m in pretty damn good company right there. He had a good career.”
In late November, Harper underwent surgery to heal bursitis in his left knee, a result of two collisions with outfield fences that ultimately sent him to the disabled list and forced him to play in pain. Doctors saved about 90 percent of his bursa sac in the operation, Harper said, describing that as “incredible.” His knee, he said, has returned to normal condition.
“There’s nothing wrong with it,” Harper said. “I’m good. I’m solid. I’m solid as can be. ACL, meniscus, MCL, everything is solid and very, very good. I’ll have no bone-on-bone contact or anything like that. My knee is completely fine.”
Harper has been taking batting practice and running bases. He worked with Nationals position players on Tuesday during an informal workout but only hit in the cage Wednesday. He could golf without pain. He can leg-press 500 pounds. He performed agility drills and box jumps. Manager Matt Williams has said Harper will be “full go” once full-squad workouts start tomorrow.
“We worked hard all offseason and I worked my tail off to get to this point,” Harper said. “I feel like I’m where I need to be. I’m excited to start games and feel how I slide and run, hit in games. Just that feel on there will help me pass some things and I feel good about it.”
As Harper lifted weights early in the winter, he ballooned to 236 pounds. Since mid-January, when he has dropped to 220. Harper’s doctors advised him not to run on his knee. And so instead, he biked around Las Vegas.
“I really enjoyed that, getting stronger and feeling better,” Harper said. “I used to run hills, run stadiums, things like that. But I couldn’t do that this offseason. I got on the bike and tried to push that to the max, push that to the limit. I really worked hard at that.”
Williams has said he wants to help Harper become a Hall of Famer, and so far Harper has taken to Williams. He called Williams a “bulldog” and said he “loved” the structure and planning he brought to spring training.
“It’s nice to be able to have a young guy there doing things, working hard and having that enthusiasm of being here every single day and wanting to win and wanting to have a plan and work hard,” Harper said. “There is a lot of teams trying to go to that. It’s starts with [Mike] Matheny, [Brad] Ausmus and a lot of guys. Matheny had had so much success in St. Louis. It’s nice to have that understands everything here.”
Boz is writing a column for tomorrow’s Post on Harper, and he will have more on him and from him.