VIERA, Fla. — Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper said Friday morning that the left calf tightness that scratched him from Thursday’s game was feeling better but the 19-year-old had only hit and not tested the calf with running, which is when it bothers him.
Harper took batting practice in the indoor batting cage Friday morning and planned to test the calf with running later during the team’s workout. If he continues to feel good, Harper said he’d lobby to get back on the Nationals’ trip to Lakeland on Saturday for a split-squad matchup with the Detroit Tigers.
UPDATE: Harper did not do any running to test the calf during the team’s workout on trainer’s orders making it a near certainty that he won’t be in the lineup on Saturday and Nationals manager Davey Johnson said it’ll probably be “at least three days,” counting Friday as the first day.
“Absolutely,” he said. “I’m going to try to get in there. If it feels OK, then I’ll try to get in the lineup. If not, I’ll just come back Sunday or Monday.”
The opportunity to face American League Cy Young and MVP Justin Verlander may have something to do with Harper’s desire to take a 1:45 busride out to Lakeland.
“It’d be fun,” Harper said, a smile crossing his face at the thought. “I think it’d be a good experience to do that. I think it’d be pretty fun to go in there and face him. If (I’m not on the trip) hopefully I’ll face him during the season.”
(As an aside, Harper was clearly not intending this when he said that last part, but since the Nationals do not play the Tigers in interleague play this season, the only time he would face Verlander would be in the World Series. The Nationals and Tigers do, however, meet three more times this spring so there’s certainly a chance they could get this matchup again while still in Florida.)
Either way, it appears that Harper’s concern level over the tightness he felt when he woke up on Thursday is extremely low. He said several times in a brief interview that if he can’t talk his way into Saturday’s lineup he’d come back “Sunday or Monday.”
“I haven’t run yet,” he said Friday morning. “That’s the only time I feel a little bit of pain, but (hitting) felt good. I’m just going to take it day-by-day and see how I feel tomorrow morning and see if I can get on that trip tomorrow.”
Chances are, however, that Harper will not be on the trip to Lakeland when the bus departs Saturday morning. Nationals manager Davey Johnson has taken an extremely cautious approach with injuries this spring, holding players out several days after they declare themselves ready so the odds are pretty heavy that Harper will not win that battle.