Harper cleared to resume rehab

Harper cleared to resume rehab
June 17, 2013, 7:00 pm
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Bryce Harper cleared for more physical activity

PHILADELPHIA — One week after his much-publicized visit to orthopedist James Andrews, Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper has been cleared to resume his rehab from a badly bruised left knee that has plagued him more than a month.

Harper was examined this morning by Nationals team doctor Wiemi Douoguih, who determined that a week of rest and limited activity reduced the swelling in the 20-year-old's knee, enough to allow him to ramp up his rehab.

For now, that means only that Harper will be allowed to start walking without a knee brace. If he makes it through that seemingly mundane task with no issues, he'll then attempt to jog, then run. Not until he passes all those tests will Harper be allowed to resume baseball activities, though head trainer Lee Kuntz suggested there may not be much time at all between each step of the process.

"Running's the key for me," Kuntz said. "If he can run and do all those explosive type of activities, where it doesn't have any swelling or anything else, he's in a good spot and we can add all the other things. The hitting and throwing will come quickly, because obviously there's nothing wrong with his arm or back."

Kuntz was careful not to suggest any kind of formal timetable for Harper's return from the disabled list, though,

"A lot of this is based on what we're seeing on a daily basis," Kuntz said. "And right now, we're just going through strengthening-type things where you're loading it and making sure it's not irritated. Once we get through that stuff, this stuff will come fairly quickly. But again, I don't have a crystal ball. We're going to try and do this as quickly and as safely as possible."

Harper last played on May 26, when he aggravated the already-bruised knee on a pair of headfirst slides. He initially hurt himself crashing into the wall at Dodger Stadium on May 13, though he also has since admitted he should have gone on the DL as far back as April 30, when he hurt his side during a collision with the wall in Atlanta.

The injury eventually was diagnosed as bursitis, and Harper attempted to return from that injury without any surgical procedures or injections. But when the swelling continued, he traveled to Pensacola, Fla., one week ago to get a second opinion from Andrews, the noted orthopedist. Andrews' diagnosis mirrored the Nationals' diagnosis of bursitis, but he gave Harper injections of both cortisone and platelet-rich plasma in the knee to reduce pain and swelling.

Andrews told Harper to rest for one week before being re-evaluated. That milestone passed today, and the Nationals believe their course of action has produced the results they desired.

"At this point, swelling's down," Kuntz said. "All indications are, it's working. Feels better and the swelling's down. That's the way you want to go."

Meanwhile, fellow outfielder Denard Span was out of tonight's lineup in Philadelphia with a bruised right foot, the result of several foul balls that struck the exact same spot, including one yesterday in Cleveland.

Span, who had his foot wrapped tightly this afternoon, is hopeful he won't need more than one day off. He received an X-ray last week after a previous foul ball, and that test showed no fracture.

Span insisted he's never had an issue fouling off pitches like this in his career but is fairly certain why it keeps happening this season.

"I know why it is: My swing right now is not good," he said. "My swing right now isn't what it normally is. I'm not getting around the ball. [Manager] Davey [Johnson] said it's not my swing, it's my timing. Either way, it's something to do with my swing. Because I've never done this in 25 years. I've fouled balls off the side of my foot, but you're fine to get back in the box. I've never squared it off the top of my foot three times."

Span is currently hitting .256 with a .312 on-base percentage. Both numbers are more than 25 points off his career averages.