With his Players Weekend jersey hanging behind him — the one that reads “Bam Bam” on the back instead of “Harper” — Bryce Harper sat in front of his locker Friday, sorting through the endless supply of bats and gloves and cleats he’d been sent for this weekend. He won’t get to use them, at least not yet.
“Nothing has really changed,” Harper said when asked for an update on his knee. “I wish I had more for you.”
Harper continues to move gingerly, though with a much-diminished limp than he had in the immediate aftermath of his injury. He gets treatment. He sits. He waits. But for now, that’s all.
Harper suffered the severe bone bruise to his knee two weeks ago Saturday, and neither he, nor the team, have established a timetable for his return. He’s so far shown no signs of moving toward running or agility work. He has more than five weeks before the first game of the National League Division Series, though of course the Nationals would like him to return before then.
Max Scherzer seems likely to return before then, perhaps this weekend.
As he tested his tight neck all week, Scherzer said the pain was dissipating and the stiffness was breaking up. As soon as he felt good enough to throw a bullpen, he insisted, he would be able to start two days later.
About three hours before Friday night’s series opener against the Mets, Scherzer threw a bullpen in full uniform. More members of the Nationals training staff than usual, including chiropractor Keith Pyne, were out in the bullpen during his session. As Scherzer walked past trainer Paul Lessard after the session, he gave a simple thumbs up.
“I’m good,” he said.
If Scherzer is, indeed, good — and the greatest test of that generally comes the day after — he would be on time to start one game of Sunday’s split doubleheader. Traditionally, Scherzer has preferred the second game, which in this case happens to be on national television. Scherzer would likely prefer that stage against a decimated Mets lineup, too.
Erick Fedde would be on turn to start in Syracuse tomorrow. The Nationals could decide to hold him back as insurance for Scherzer on Sunday, when they would need to make a move to activate a starter. If Scherzer feels fine Saturday, they will probably be activating Scherzer, though that remains to be seen.
Friday, the Nationals activated A.J. Cole to start the series opener against the Mets. They optioned Pedro Severino back to Class AAA Syracuse to create room. Severino is likely to return when rosters expand next week, if not before.
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