- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 21, 2012

Bryce Harper’s status for the second game of a doubleheader Saturday night is in question after the Washington Nationals’ outfielder fouled a ball off his left ankle in the first inning Saturday afternoon and was forced to leave the game.

An MRI on Harper’s ankle showed that there was no break, and he’s been diagnosed with a contusion. He is not in the starting lineup for Game 2, the first time since June 10, though he did pinch hit in that game.

Harper, batting against Atlanta Braves right-hander Ben Sheets, squared to bunt the 0-1 offering and fouled an 89-mph fastball into the inside of his left ankle/foot.

Harper appeared to be in significant pain immediately after the foul, walking down the first base line and crouching over in pain every few seconds. He was attended to by team trainers and spent several minutes trying stave off the pain. He attempted to put weight on his foot several times, each time needing to put his hands on his knees and crouch after a few seconds.

Harper stayed in the game, though, and finished the at-bat with a swinging strikeout. He then played center field in the top of the second inning but did not have a ball hit to him. In the bottom of the second, Harper was in the batting cage attempting to test the ankle when first baseman Adam LaRoche and outfielder Michael Morse observed how much pain he was in.

“They said he can’t even swing,” Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. “He’s trying like heck and he can’t even swing, can’t land on it.”

“It was pretty swollen,” LaRoche said. “The inning after it happened I looked at it. I told him, ‘If you can go, go, but we understand. We’ve all been hit like that and it hurts. If you can’t get around in the outfield, go tell somebody.’”

Harper was removed before the top of the third when Roger Bernadina took his spot in center field. It appears, though, that the Nationals have dodged a bullet with the tests coming back negative.

“It’s just a bruise,” Johnson said. “He’ll be fine. Whether or not he plays, I’ll have to see how he’s walking.”

Losing Harper for any amount of time would be a blow for the Nationals, who have relied on their rookie phenom in every game since his call-up. But it would be especially poor timing now as the team designated two different outfielders for assignment this week in Rick Ankiel and Xavier Nady.

In Triple-A Syracuse, Corey Brown is hitting .302 with 21 home runs and has been on a tear in his last 10 games, hitting .336 with a .556 slugging percentage. When the Nationals DFA’d Ankiel, Johnson mentioned Brown as one of the reasons the team felt comfortable parting ways with Ankiel and even referred to Brown as probably a better hitter than the veteran.

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