Bryce Harper OK but ‘maybe I shouldn’t run into walls’

ATLANTA — The Washington Nationals appear to have avoided a major injury scare with outfielder Bryce Harper returning to the lineup for Thursday night’s series finale with the Atlanta Braves.

Harper, who slammed the left side of his body into the scoreboard at Turner Field on Tuesday as he attempted to rob Tim Hudson of a home run, was diagnosed with a contusion to his side and came out of Wednesday’s game in the sixth inning.

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“The doctor said it was a very bad bruise,” manager Davey Johnson said. “They took the X-rays to be precautionary. If he’d have broken some ribs, it would’ve been much more painful. But they did it anyway.

“Hopefully he’s young, real strong. He didn’t want to come out the other day when I took him out. I had to fight him on that. So I wasn’t going to have that same battle [Thursday] when he said he was good to go.”

Harper checked his swing in his third at-bat Wednesday and appeared to grimace as he bent over in pain, sending waves of concern through the Nationals’ coaching staff. Johnson pulled him from the game after the at-bat, despite Harper’s protests.

But X-rays on his side taken late Tuesday night were clean, and the 20-year-old saw no reason why he wouldn’t play Thursday.

He took batting practice to be sure, and swinging is the only time he expected it would bother him.

The Nationals did not plan to send him for an MRI.

“I don’t see it being my oblique or anything like that,” Harper said. “It’s more inside my rib area. Maybe I shouldn’t run into walls.”

Harper will continue to get treatment on the area and be monitored by the Nationals training staff.

Right fielder Jayson Werth, who missed the previous two games with a swollen left ankle and was dealing with cramping in his right hamstring, also returned to the Nationals’ lineup Thursday night.

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