- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 30, 2017

How much progress has Bryce Harper made since he hyperextended his knee in a harrowing Saturday night tumble Aug. 12? Not much.

Harper said Wednesday that he has a calf strain in addition to the hyperextended and bruised left knee which put him on the 10-day disabled list Aug. 13. He is able to do calf raises, is trying to strengthen whatever areas he can address around the knee without putting stress on the joint, and waiting.

“If I wasn’t an athlete and I was just your average person, I’d probably not even be on it or doing anything,” Harper said. “I’m thankful to have a strong unit in there with the training staff and come in every single day and work hard and do things I need to do around my body to take a little stress off the knee area, calf area, that can hopefully speed up recovery. Speed up those places around it that I can be stronger in.”

Harper, 24, was in the thick of the MVP race when he went skidding across first base at Nationals Park on a wet night following a rain delay. Based on the severity of his tumble, the initial concern was that Harper had done major damage, such as tearing a ligament, to his knee. Instead, Harper and the Nationals were relieved to learn that he would not need surgery despite the troubling optics of vaulting through the air, crashing down beyond first base and clutching the front of his knee.

There is no timeline for Harper’s return. At the time of the injury, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said he was “optimistic” and hopeful Harper would return before the end of the season. Wednesday, Harper said he hasn’t been checking the calendar and trying to figure out when he could be back. The regular season ends Oct. 1. There is a five-day break from the end of the season to the start of the postseason for division winners in the National League. Add that to the calendar, too.

“I’m going to take it — what’s best for this organization, what’s best for myself,” Harper said. “I don’t want to come back and pop something and have to have surgery or something goes bad. It was a freak accident, freak incident. I feel like all my injuries have been impact injuries. Never had a problem with a calf strain [before] or anything like that. This will be the first time going through that and wondering what that feels like. Just trying to take it day-by-day and worry about what I can each day I come in here. Support the guys around the clubhouse and see what I can do.”

Harper acknowledged there is not much of a window for him to return and re-obtain his timing. He also pointed out that the Nationals’ minor-league teams did not make the playoffs this season. That eliminates an opportunity for him to join them and receive game action in the minor leagues. Triple-A Syracuse wraps its season Sept. 4.

“I think it’s going to take some time to get going, of course,” Harper said. “We don’t have much.”

Nationals manager Dusty Baker said Wednesday that part of the reason Jayson Werth has played right field since his return from the disabled list this week was because Harper’s future is unclear. If Harper is not back before the postseason begins, Baker will need to know how he can configure his lineup without him.

Putting Werth in right field quickly undermines the defensive ability of the outfield. Taking him out of left means that Howie Kendrick or Adam Lind could be out there for an extended portion of a game. Brian Goodwin’s recovery will also influence Baker’s outfield options. Goodwin has been on the 10-day disabled list since Aug. 16 because of a left groin strain. He recently has been running in the outfield. Baker put Wilmer Difo in right field Tuesday night. Difo is naturally an infielder.

“That’s one reason I’m playing Jayson [Werth] in right,” Baker said. “You don’t know if [Harper has] hit a plateau of healing. You’re asking me questions I really don’t know and nobody knows… He’s a long ways from running. Playing the outfield and running the bases.

“I hate the thought of him not being around, but you’ve got to make those plans, whether you like it or not. Before we holler, ‘doomsday,’ we’ve got a month to go, then we’ll see.”

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