Bryce Harper did not take batting practice today as he rested his inflamed left thumb, but he plans to return in an exhibition Friday at Nationals Park and has no concern the ailment will affect his status for opening day.
Harper re-aggravated his thumb yesterday in his second at-bat, getting jammed as he flared a single to center field. Harper has been dealing with swelling and discomfort in his hand since Friday, when he got jammed while hitting a single.
“When I woke up this morning, I felt fine,” Harper said. “Yesterday, it kind of got me a little bit. I thought it was going to be a lot worse when I woke up this morning. If I was in the lineup today, I could play.”
Harper said he may even play tomorrow, in the Nationals’ Grapefruit League finale, if his hand continues to improve. Manager Davey Johnson wants Harper to play in at least one game before the season begins Monday, so Harper does not go five days without seeing live pitching.
“I’ve already got [about] 70 a-bs, so it doesn’t really matter,” Harper said. “Being able to get the reps is huge, definitely. But playing Friday will probably be good. If I can get BP in there and do those kinds of things, it’s probably not going to bother me.”
Harper may wear a rubber pad around his thumb during games, which he said makes him less comfortable. He admitted the inflammation would flare up and hurt again the next time he gets jammed, but he’s not worried about it.
“It’s just a matter of playing through it,” Harper said. “I don’t think it’s going to hold me down or anything. I have a pretty high pain tolerance, so it’s not a big deal.”
Hand and wrist injuries tend to linger for hitters, but in this case, “I don’t it see it like that,” Harper said. “I really don’t.”
If Harper plays Friday as planned, he will face Yankees left-hander Andy Pettitte. Last year, Harper went 0 for 4 with three strikeouts against Pettitte – no pitcher gave him more trouble.