- The Washington Times - Friday, June 19, 2015

Bryce Harper was not in the Washington Nationals’ lineup a night after slipping in right field and mildly straining his left hamstring.

Nationals manager Matt Williams said Harper was sore on Friday after his Thursday night injury. Williams said the plan was for Harper to “get a few swings in” on Friday, do light mobility work and continue to receive treatment for the injury. Harper did not speak to reporters before the game.

“We want to be cautious and be sure we’re taking the appropriate steps,” Williams said. “But, for today, we’re going to see how he feels. If we have to take further tests, we’ll do so.”

Harper has a history of left knee injuries. In 2013, he famously hurt the knee while crashing into the wall at Dodger Stadium. He was later diagnosed with bursitis, which hindered his performance for the rest of the season and required offseason surgery. Harper was also hit by a pitch on his left knee Saturday in Milwaukee.

Here’s how he explained the play and pain Thursday night:

“I came up throwing and it was really slippery out there, in the rain. My right knee gave out, and then I put all my pressure on the left knee and got my hamstring, lower hamstring, and the knee a little bit. But it didn’t feel very good. I was in pretty good pain, and a little scared at the same time because I could feel a little bit more on the lower half of it. But see how I am [Friday] and go from there.”

Harper was hitting .344 with 22 home runs and 53 RBI. He leads the league in walks, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS.

Taking Harper’s place in the cleanup spot Friday night was Clint Robinson. Robinson called Harper the “first-half MVP” and vowed that he can’t be Harper. Robinson said no matter where he hits, cleanup or ninth, he’ll take the same approach.

“I mean I’m not Bryce Harper you know, nobody is,” Robinson said. “So, I mean for anybody to expect me to kind of go out there and do what he does is kind of a lofty goal. I’m just going to go out there and do the same thing I always do whether I’m in the four-hole or in the nine-hole. I’m going to go out there and put together good at bats and, you know, play good defense so that’s really all I can concentrate on.”

Harper wasn’t the only regular out of the lineup to open a three-game series against the Pittsburgh Pirates as shortstop Ian Desmond was given the night off. Desmond is hitting .143 in June. He has 23 strikeouts and one walk in 63 at-bats, an alarming rate even for the free-swinging Desmond.

Danny Espinosa played shortstop in his place.

“I hope he rests,” Williams said of Desmond. “The last day off he had, he refused to rest. Took batting practice. Back to the grind. I want him to rest. Take a blow. He’s been an everyday player for a long, long time. Things have not been good for him so far this season and there is a bunch of baseball left, so I want him to rest and relax and freshen up a little bit. It’s difficult to do that with him because he’s a worker.”

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