ATLANTA — Bryce Harper left Wednesday night’s game against the Atlanta Braves in the sixth inning with an injury, but the Washington Nationals outfielder appears to have dodged a significant issue.
Harper, who slammed his left side into the scoreboard in right field on Tuesday night trying to rob Tim Hudson of a home run, checked his swing in his at-bat in the sixth inning against left-hander Paul Maholm. He appeared to grimace after the swing.
The Nationals diagnosed the 20-year-old with a contusion on his left side and manager Davey Johnson said he will be put on medication to help with his discomfort while also undergoing treatment on the area. It’s unlikely that he will play on Thursday, but Harper said he could “come in tomorrow and feel like a million bucks and play.”
While Harper said his collision with the wall on Tuesday night, which gave him a nasty bruise all down the left side of his torso, didn’t help matters, the check swing “just got me a little bit.”
“I think having all the force going towards the ball and then just stopping immediately it just got me,” Harper said. “Got me to the point where I couldn’t breathe real quick, and had to catch my breath. It didn’t feel very good.”
Harper ground out to first base in the at-bat and only got a little more than halfway down the base line before Freddie Freeman tagged the bag and Harper retreated to the dugout. He then spent time talking with manager Davey Johnson and head trainer Lee Kuntz.
When the Nationals came out to the field for the bottom of the sixth inning, Roger Bernadina had replaced Harper in right field.
“He didn’t want to come out of the ballgame but I saw him grimacing and I was concerned about him playing,” Johnson said. “We couldn’t take a chance on it. He could pull a lat or something and he could be out for a long time. We’ll take it day by day.”
The Nationals were not immediately concerned that Harper strained his oblique or something of that nature, though it appeared to be a possibility when he struggled after the check swing. Johnson said the concern now is mostly that it doesn’t worsen into something more serious.
“You worry about it because it’s a real bad contusion and with all the blood in there it could cause some other problems and he could hurt himself,” Johnson said. “So we’ll take it day by day and we’ll check him tomorrow but he’ll probably be out of (the lineup).”
Harper, who walked in front of Ian Desmond in the fourth inning and came around to score on Desmond’s homer, has been one of the Nationals’ few offensive bright spots early this season.
With the offense struggling out of the gate, Harper entered Wednesday’s game hitting .344 with a .430 on-base percentage and a .720 slugging percentage, along with a National League-best 1.150 on-base plus slugging percentage and nine home runs.
With Ryan Zimmerman close to returning from a hamstring issue, Jayson Werth nursing a swollen ankle and sore hamstring and Adam LaRoche mired in a slump, an extended loss of Harper’s bat from the Nationals’ lineup would be a significant blow.
“That’s never a good thing to see,” catcher Kurt Suzuki said of Harper’s grimace after his check-swing. “I’ve had a strained oblique and I was out for a month. So you don’t want to see that with any one of your teammates. But hopefully he’s fine… We’ve had a little bit of an injury bug here. So hopefully we get guys back slowly and get going.”