Nats dodge bullet: Harper not seriously hurt
Updated at 10:35 p.m.
ATLANTA — Already beset with injuries to other key members of their lineup, the Nationals got a scare tonight when their most important player had to depart with what initially looked like a serious injury.
Bryce Harper, though, is fairly confident he didn't strain any muscles on an awkward, sixth-inning swing, and is dealing only with a bruise to his left side suffered Tuesday night when he crashed into the outfield fence.
"If I can play tomorrow, I'm gonna play," Harper said. "If they put me in the lineup, I'm gonna play. I can play with pain and I can tolerate pain, so hopefully there's nothing that can keep me out of that lineup tomorrow."
Davey Johnson also downplayed the significance of the injury, though the veteran manager didn't sound inclined to take a chance and let his 20-year-old slugger play in Thursday's series finale at Turner Field.
"We'll take it day-by-day and we'll check him tomorrow," Johnson said. "But he'll probably be out of there."
Harper originally hurt himself Tuesday slamming into the right-field wall on Tim Hudson's homer, a collision that left a long, nasty-looking gash down his left side. Though he was able to continue playing with the bad bruise, his check swing in the top of the sixth tonight was particularly painful.
"I think having all the force going towards the ball and then just stopping, immediately it just got me a little bit," he said. "Got me to the point where I couldn't breathe real quick and had to catch my breath. It didn't feel very good."
Harper did remain at the plate and grounded the next pitch from Paul Maholm to first base. He ran only halfway down the line, then gingerly returned to the dugout, where he met with Johnson and trainers. He didn't take the field for the bottom of the sixth, with Roger Bernadina taking his place in right field.
After an hour of rest and treatment, Harper said he felt somewhat better.
"It's just a little tight," he said. "I think that's the biggest thing. Went in there, iced it, did some treatment a little bit. Of course, once you ice it, it tightens up a little bit. So like I said, hopefully I can come in tomorrow and feel like a million bucks and play."
The Nationals already went into this game without regular right fielder Jayson Werth (battling ankle and hamstring injuries) and third baseman Ryan Zimmerman (eligible to come off the disabled list Friday after straining his hamstring).
X-rays on Werth's ankle were negative, and he hopes to play in Thursday's series finale. Zimmerman went 0-for-3 in a rehab game at Class A Potomac. He's scheduled to work out Thursday morning, then fly to Pittsburgh to meet the Nationals in time for Friday's series opener at PNC Park.