Red-hot Harper still has swollen thumb

Red-hot Harper still has swollen thumb
March 26, 2013, 4:45 pm
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JUPITER, Fla. -- You wouldn't know it based on the results he's had at the plate, but Bryce Harper continues to be bothered by a swollen left thumb and may need to take the last couple days of spring training off to ensure he's completely healed in time for Opening Day.

The Nationals' second-year outfielder initially hurt himself on Friday when he was jammed by a pitch from Tigers left-hander Drew Smyly. He was held out of the following day's game but returned strong on Sunday and has been on a tear ever since.

Harper's third-inning RBI single to right field this afternoon against the Marlins was his ninth consecutive hit, raising his Grapefruit League batting average to a hefty .476. Turns out he got jammed again on that hit, though, and had to consider not coming up to bat again two innings later.

"He got jammed a little bit," manager Davey Johnson said. "I might have to give him a couple days off, I don't know. Usually those are just kind of nagging injuries ... but if it gets real bad, you give him a little cortisone in there and that quiets it down. But I don't know if it's that bad."

Johnson suggested he may have to sit Harper for the final two exhibition games in Florida (tomorrow against the Braves, Thursday against the Mets) though he would probably return for Friday's game against the Yankees at Nationals Park at the latest.

"I've just got to check with the doctor," the manager said. "But he needs to have some playing [time]. You don't want to just shut a guy down and let him have five days off before the opener."

At this point, rest is probably the last thing Harper wants to experience. He's been hot at the plate since the moment he reported to camp, but he's taken his performance to even greater heights over the last week.

With singles in each of his first two at-bats today, Harper extended his streak of consecutive at-bats with a hit to nine. (The regular-season, National League record, by the way, is 10.) After drawing a walk in his third and final at-bat of the afternoon, he's now reached base in 10 consecutive plate appearances while raising his on-base percentage to .507 and his spring OPS to 1.237.

Any fear Harper might actually peak too soon, that he's wasting all these hits in March?

"I'm not worried about that," Johnson said. "He's been swinging the bat good since he got here."