White-Out all covered the Nationals’ lineup card this afternoon. The original version left out Bryce Harper, who missed Wednesday night’s game in Philadelphia with a hip sprain. But then, even as he admitted he was not 100 percent, Harper talked his way into the lineup. Bench coach Randy Knorr went to work with his White-Out, and Harper was batting third and playing left.
“I felt Bryce would probably need another day,” Manager Davey Johnson said. “He was not feeling that great coming in. But he came in, got a little treatment, and he said, ‘I want in there. I’m not 100 percent, but I want to be in there.’ I said, ‘Well, you’re in there then.’ ”
Corey Brown had been the original left fielder, and he wound up in the lineup after all. During batting practice, the Nationals scratched center fielder Denard Span with tightness in his groin. Brown replaced Span, who is riding a 17-game hitting streak, as the Nationals’ leadoff hitter and center fielder. It is not clear how Span suffered the injury or severe the ailment is.
As another member of their outfield deals with a new concern, Harper continues to play through soreness in his hip. Harper has been hobbled at times by the pain in his hip, one of the many injuries Harper has felt since collided with outfield walls in Atlanta in late April and in Los Angeles in mid-May.
Johnson said Harper’s latest injury – which head athletic trainer Lee Kuntz described as “soreness” – is not serious enough to sideline him.
“It’s just a little sprain,” Johnson said. “He still can run good. Occasionally, he aggravates it when he swings at home plate. You see him sometimes grimace when he gets out of the box. The trainers informed me it’s not something that can get worse. So he can play with. And he’s 20 years old. I didn’t think a 20-year-old could ever get hurt, anyway.”
Harper has attracted headlines concerning his health and hustle, but the level of his performance should not be overlooked. Harper currently has an .885 OPS. If he finishes the year there or higher and collects enough plate appearances to qualify, he will have posted the eighth-highest OPS all-time for a hitter in his age-20 season.
“He feels like he’s good to go,” Johnson said. “He said, ‘I’m not 100 percent, but I need to be in there.’ I agree.”