The Washington Times - June 17, 2013, 05:56PM

PHILADELPHIA — One week after receiving a cortisone shot and a platelet-rich plasma injection in his left knee, the swelling in his bursa sac had gone down and Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper was cleared to begin walking, jogging and other weight-bearing activities.

Harper will be monitored closely, with re-evaluations of the swelling in his knee done daily, and provided he does not take any steps back he will progress to running and baseball activities in a fairly short amount of time. There is no firm timetable for his return, though.

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“You have to see how he reacts to the one thing before you can add the second,” said Nationals head trainer Lee Kuntz. “Otherwise you’re trying to cut out steps and that doesn’t work. We’ll do baseball activity once he’s able to do other functional ground-based activities like running. Running is the key, for me.

“If he can run and do all those explosive-type things and doesn’t have any swelling, he’s in a good spot and he can add all the other things. The hitting and throwing will come quickly because obviously there’s nothing wrong with his arm or his back.

“A lot of this is based on what we’re seeing on a daily basis. Right now, we’re just going through strengthening things and making sure it’s not irritated. Once we get through that stuff, [the rest] will come fairly quickly. But I don’t have a crystal ball. We’re going to try to do this as quickly and as safely as possible.”

Harper has not played in a game for the Nationals since May 26, when multiple slides on the basepaths aggravated the bursitis in his knee. The origin for the issue is believed to be Harper’s violent crash into the right field wall at Dodger Stadium on May 13, but Harper had been playing through various issues since April 30 when he smashed the left side of his body into the right field wall in Atlanta.

He was placed on the disabled list June 1, retroactive to May 26, and was eligible to come off the disabled list June 11. But with little progress made by that point, Harper visited Dr. James Andrews for a second opinion June 10, and that was when he received the cortisone and PRP shots.

The news Monday, however, seemed to be good.

“The swelling’s down and he was able to complete all activities pain-free,” Kuntz said. “All indications are that [the injections are] working. He feels better and the swelling’s down. That’s the way you want to go.”

In Harper’s absence, the Nationals’ offense has continued to languish among the worst in the league. The team is 9-15 when Harper does not appear in the game. 

And Harper wants to be able to return to the Nationals’ lineup as quickly as possible, as is his nature. There was some swelling in the knee over the weekend, Kuntz said, “After he had done a lot of walking and other things when he should’ve been resting,” along with some range of motion exercises — but that dissipated and is no longer an issue. 

Despite the Nationals’ issues offensively, and the way he transforms their lineup when healthy, the Nationals have taken an extremely cautious approach with Harper and they have no plans to rush him back.

“The middle of our lineup can be much more productive,” said manager Davey Johnson. “They’re veterans. I’m sure they will be. In this day and time, we’re not going to rush anybody coming back for risk of them being out longer. I think he’ll be back pretty soon and he’ll probably have to go play a couple games and make sure it doesn’t swell up. But we got a good report on him.”

“You’ve got to put the reins on him,” Kuntz said. “He’s a young guy and … younger guys say, ‘Hey, let’s go.’ But, OK, ‘You’ve got to walk before you can jog and you’ve got to jog before you can run.’ He’s a guy who wants to go from walk to run. We’ll get it right.”