- The Washington Times - Friday, August 12, 2016

Bryce Harper was out of the starting lineup for the fourth consecutive game Friday, which produced two questions: What exactly is wrong with him? How long until he goes on the disabled list?

The Washington Nationals right fielder has been dealing with a stiff neck, according to the team. Friday afternoon, Sports Illustrated writer Tom Verducci reported that Harper actually has a shoulder injury, according to his source. Verducci has a long-standing relationship with Harper.

Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo refuted that report to reporters in the dugout at Nationals Park.

“Well, Tom Verducci is wrong,” Rizzo said. “I just asked Bryce Harper and the training staff and our medical staff. He hasn’t had a right shoulder injury. He’s got a stiff neck. Yes, with cupping and yes with ART, he and about 14 or 15 other players on the team on a routine basis, like we always do. The report is inaccurate.”

Rizzo was referring to the treatment that Harper has received for his neck problem, which Verducci referenced in his article and had been previously reported. Cupping is a suction therapy, similar to the one U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps receives, which leaves dark, round circles on the skin. The technique has been used throughout the season by the Nationals. The acronym ART stands for “Active Release Techniques.”

Harper was not in the clubhouse when it was open to reporters Friday.

Before the game, and Verducci’s report, Nationals manager Dusty Baker said that Harper was “better.”

“Decided to keep him out another day,” Baker said. “But, he is better.”

Not having Harper makes Baker short-handed on the bench. Multiple times this season, the Nationals waited several days before placing an injured player on the disabled list. Most recently, they went through the process with Ryan Zimmerman. Zimmerman was hit on the wrist by a pitch July 31 and did not play Aug. 1-5, but wasn’t placed on the disabled list until Aug. 6. Baker explained how waiting is not ideal, but the team also considers the ramifications of a player being ready to come off the disabled list well before his time on the list expires.

In regard to Harper, Rizzo said last year’s unanimous MVP, who is hitting .233 this season, would be on the disabled list if he needed to be.

“He’s day-to-day,” Rizzo said. “I have a low level of concern.”

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