Alarms began ringing at Nationals Park Thursday afternoon when the Nationals took the field for the seventh inning and Chris Heisey, not Bryce Harper, jogged out to right field. Harper had started the game and just hit in the bottom of the sixth inning with no apparent issues. But the former MVP then reported to Manager Dusty Baker that pain had flared up in his left groin. The club immediately removed him from the game, which the Nationals went on to win 4-2.
“We took him out for precautionary reasons and we just have to see,” Baker said. “He’s day-to-day.”
After the game, Harper said he “felt good.” He explained he initially felt discomfort when he made a diving catch in the third inning, a few minutes before he walked and scored in the bottom of the frame.
“I’ve got to stop diving, trying to catch fly balls too much,” Harper joked.
Harper stayed in the game for three more plate appearances. He said he felt fine in the first two, but the pain increased during the third. Harper struck out in that at-bat in the sixth inning with a big swing on the third strike, but didn’t appear to grimace. He finished the day 0 for 3 with the walk and run.
“He was swinging mighty hard, but he always swings mighty hard,” Baker said. “I saw him in the dugout and asked him how he’s doing and he said, ‘Man, it’s not doing too good.’ And so we didn’t want to take a chance.”
Harper has started 25 of Washington’s 28 games this season. He is batting .376 with nine home runs, but has cooled off as of late. Including Thursday, Harper has struck out eight times over his past six games after striking out 15 times in his first 22 games.
“They want to be smart. If we feel it during the game, they want us out of there,” Harper said. “They talked to you before and say, ‘hey just be smart. If you feel it, just make sure you’re getting in there, getting treatment.’ I felt it a little bit, and I made sure to get in there, get with [director of medical services] Harvey [Sharman] and hopefully get ready for tomorrow.”
Harper admittedly really wants to make sure he’s ready for Friday because the Nationals will be at Citizens Bank Park, where he has 12 home runs and a .627 slugging percentage in 158 career plate appearances.
“Everybody knows I want to play in Philly,” Harper said.