Posted on August 13, 2016 by Bryan Zarpentine
Bryce Harper was not in the lineup as the Washington Nationals lost to the Atlanta Braves Friday night. In fact, Harper has not played in a week due to what the team says is a neck injury, making a trip to the DL a distinct possibility for the reigning National League MVP. There are also reports that Harper has been playing with a shoulder injury for a significant part of the season, although the Nationals have denied those reports.
Washington manager Dusty Baker said Harper was scheduled to see a chiropractor on Friday and has received treatment for a neck issue that has prevented him from playing. The manager says Harper’s condition has improved, but that he is not yet ready to play. “I hope not,” Baker said when asked about the possibility of Harper landing on the DL. “We’d probably have to make a decision within a few days, because we’re going short. But right now, with the progress he’s making, we haven’t discussed that.”
Meanwhile, SI’s Tom Verducci reported Friday that Harper has been dealing with a right shoulder injury for the past two months, citing an undisclosed source close to the team. Verducci’s report states the injury has hampered Harper’s ability to get loft and power on the ball, which Verducci states may explain the high percentage of soft-hit balls from Harper this year compared to previous seasons.
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It’s believed, but not known for sure, that Harper aggravated the shoulder on a head first slide. His numbers this season would seem to support that he’s been hampered by an injury for the past couple of months. Harper hit .176 with a .621 OPS in July, and things have not been any better in the four games he’s played in August.
However, Washington GM Mike Rizzo vehemently denies that Harper has a shoulder injury. “The report is inaccurate,” Rizzo said Friday. “I just asked Bryce Harper, the training staff and our medical staff, and he hasn’t had a right shoulder injury. He’s got a stiff neck that we’ve been treating.” Rizzo said about Harper’s neck injury: “I have a low level of concern,” adding, “It’s day-to-day, so we’re going to take it day-to-day. If it was a DL-warranted injury, he’d be on the DL.”
Since Harper left last Saturday’s game against the San Francisco Giants complaining of neck pain, the Nationals are 2-2, with two off days during that span. With a 7.5 game lead over the Miami Marlins atop the NL East, there is little reason for the Nationals to be concerned about their place in the standings being threatened with Harper on the shelf, even if he has to go to the DL. But with a lingering neck injury and an alleged shoulder injury, not to mention his recent struggles, the Nationals may want to be worried about whether or not Harper will be able to be at his best down the stretch and into the postseason. If Harper’s not at full health, it could have a profound impact on the N.L. playoffs.