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Nationals notes: Harper’s thumb issue doesn’t keep him from getting on base

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 26, 2013

JUPITER, Fla. — Bryce Harper reached base for the 10th consecutive plate appearance Tuesday afternoon, walking in his third at-bat after getting hits in his previous nine, to bring his spring training batting average to .476.

The torrid spring offensively, the gaudy numbers, they belie the inflammation issue in Harper's left hand that manager Davey Johnson said worsened Tuesday.

Nationals trainer Lee Kuntz is concerned enough with the swelling that Harper will see Nationals medical director Wiemi Douoguih on Wednesday to determine the best course of action.

"He's still got a little tender top hand," Johnson said after the Nationals' 8-5 loss to the Miami Marlins at Roger Dean Stadium.

"I might have to give him a couple days off, I don't know. Usually those are just kind of nagging injuries. If it gets real bad you give him a little cortisone in there and that quiets it down, but I don't know if it's that bad."

Harper originally got jammed on a hard base hit to right field Friday. Johnson held him out of Saturday's game and Harper, who tried hitting with a rubber guard on his thumb during batting practice Sunday but chose not to use it in the game, seemed unconcerned about the issue.

"If it does hurt, I'm going to play anyway," he said Sunday. "So it's all good."

Johnson said he wasn't opposed to giving Harper some rest during the final three games of the exhibition season, but he also didn't want to sit his starting left fielder for five straight days and then tell him to suit up for Opening Day.

Harper was jammed again Tuesday in his second at-bat, in which he singled to right field off Henderson Alvarez. Johnson told him he'd take him out after that at-bat, but Harper asked for at least three at-bats. He walked in his final plate appearance.

"If you get jammed enough, there's inflammation in your thumb area from the trauma," Johnson said, referencing his experiences with the issue as a player. "Rest does help it, I know. But the last couple days it hasn't been swollen. Today it was swollen."

Told that Harper's performance doesn't seem to have suffered since the issue first arose, given that he was 9 for 9 with a walk, Johnson only chuckled.

"I figured it was something like that," he said.

Haren turns eyes to season

Dan Haren pitched six innings Tuesday against the Miami Marlins, and the right-hander won't start another game until Friday, April 5, in Cincinnati. The fact that there will be nine days between his last spring start and his first of the season did not concern the right-hander, as long as he's done with his Grapefruit League stint.

"When you first get out there in spring training, the adrenaline and everything is there," Haren said. "And then it just gets lower and lower. It comes to a point where you just want to get your pitch count up and get out of there healthy."

Haren had mixed results Tuesday. At one point, he had set down nine straight batters and 12 of 13, but he also surrendered four home runs on a windy day in Jupiter (including two to Giancarlo Stanton) and was most annoyed at himself for a two-out walk to Adeiny Hechavarria in the fifth inning that was followed by a home run by Chris Coghlan.

"I thought he threw the ball all right," Johnson said. "He said he found out which hitters he didn't really want to come in on. ... He'll be ready to go."

Haren was unsure if he'd throw an extended bullpen session or a simulated game before his first regular-season start, and he couldn't remember a time when he started on so many days of rest, but he wasn't worried about the layoff.

"The extra time isn't the worst thing in the world," Haren said. "It's a long, grueling season, so a couple extra days here and there is not bad."

Around the horn

Right-hander Chris Young was given his unconditional release Tuesday morning, hours after he filed paperwork to opt out of his minor league deal with Washington. He is now a free agent and didn't rule out re-signing with the Nationals if he cannot find a major league deal elsewhere. ... Roger Bernadina was 2 for 2 with a home run after taking over from Denard Span in center field Tuesday. ... Catcher Carlos Maldonado played first base and pitcher Zach Duke was on deck to pinch hit when the game ended, another sign that it's time for spring training to end.

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