Everyone in Nats stadium held their breath on the evening of Aug. 12th when Bryce Harper hyper extended his left knee by slipping over first base and catching some serious air. I held my breath as well from the comforts of my basement at home, knowing I was going to see the team play the next day. Fans anxiously awaited news about Harper’s MRI and were relieved to say the least upon learning he did not tear his ACL. Although the worst case scenario didn’t happen this time, Harper still acquired a significant bone bruise to his left knee and a sprain to his left ankle.
The GM for the Nationals, Dusty Baker, spoke about Harper’s progress during his weekly appearance on 106.7 the FAN on Sep. 13.
“He’s slowly beginning baseball activities,” Rizzo said. “He’s taking some soft swings off the tee and some flips in the cage and we are beginning the process to see when we can get him on the field to take some real baseball activities where we can ramp him up a little bit. So, slow progress, and we’re optimistic and Harp is feeling good and he’s optimistic, which is important to me.”
Dusty also stated it was fair to say that the 24-year-old star was on track to returning in time for play-offs in October, but they are going to be “cautious and slow moving with it” to make sure he is 100% to come back and bat in the middle of the line-up.
Baker’s predictions are proving true as Harper performed impressively at his first on-field batting practice since he was injured. Hitting coach Rick Schu raved about Harper’s performance, “He looked really good,” Schu said. “Awesome. He used his legs and didn’t hold anything back. It looks like he didn’t miss a beat.”
Harper was a bit harder on himself than his coaches, stating, “I felt a little off, still,” Harper said. “Not my knee, per se, but more just myself. It’s going to take some time to get back. … Got a long ways to go and hopefully be back soon.” Which is understandable after laying low for almost a full month.
When asked if he would be returning in time for play-offs, he seemed hopeful, “I hope so,” Harper said when asked if he’ll be ready for the playoff opener. “That’s definitely in my head. That’s what I want to do. That’s where I want to be. But it takes time. Just trying to do the best I can to get out here and do the things I can to get back and get ready, and see where it’s at.”
Harper has been hitting and working on light running for the past week and the Nats are reportedly flying in Florida pitchers from their instructional league to throw to Harper in stimulated games before putting him back on a major league field. The goal is to get Harper ready and able to go up to bat in a full game in time for Game 1 of the National League Division Series on Oct. 6th.