Harper suf­fers bone bruise in knee

MRI re­veals no lig­a­ment dam­age; no timetable for recovery

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - BY TODD DYBAS

After the fall and loop­ing his arms around a trainer and the hit­ting coach to be car­ried off the field, Bryce Harper had a mo­ment of de­fi­ance in the dugout late Satur­day night. He wanted to find out what the pain in his left knee meant. Was his path to a se­cond MVP award crushed? Was the Na­tion­als’ season, so in­jury-rid­den it’s hard to un­der­stand how they re­main afloat, un­done by sum­mer rain, a skid and a stu­pen­dous fall?

Harper was not sure. So, in the dugout he shed trainer Paul Les­sard and hit­ting coach Rick Schu to see if he could per­form the task of a tod­dler. Could Harper make it up the stairs alone?

He trudged up the con­crete steps from the dugout to the Na­tion­als club­house. It hurt. But, he could do it. Then, Harper ex­plained to the team doc­tor that he was going to jump side to side. If he col­lapsed, ful­fill­ing the great fear of the night that lig­a­ment dam­age would end his season, so be it. He landed left, then right. Sore but solid. Con­cerned, but not dev­as­tated.

“I didn’t feel, like, any­thing I’ve never felt be­fore,” Harper said. “That was def­i­nitely good.”

The MRI showed no lig­a­ment dam­age. Harper had a “sig­nif­i­cant” bone bruise, to use Wash­ing­ton gen­eral man­ager Mike Rizzo’s term. Harper’s time­line for a re­turn this season is vague, though he, Rizzo and Na­tion­als man­ager Dusty Baker all said Harper will be back. That’s a bet­ter al­ter­na­tive to the clear 6-9 months it takes to re­cover from an an­te­rior cru­ci­ate lig­a­ment tear.

“The good news is that there’s no lig­a­ment or ten­don dam­age, which is pretty re­mark­able in my mind just see­ing the type of in­jury that he had,” Rizzo said. “There is a sig­nif­i­cant bone bruise when he hy­per­ex­tended the knee. So, al­though we feel we’ve dodged a bul­let a bit here with any long-term lig­a­ment and ten­don dam­age, the bone bruise is some­thing of sig­nif­i­cance and we’re going to treat him

cau­tiously and hope­fully have him back later on this season.”

Harper’s left knee has of­ten been en­sconced in the mod­ern-day equiv­a­lent of ice since he crum­bled in the bottom of the first inning Satur­day night. Rizzo said Harper is us­ing a Game Ready ma­chine, which takes ice-cooled wa­ter and cir­cu­lates it to a wrap that runs from the mid-shin to mid-thigh. The sleeve also pro­vides com­pres­sion. For now, that’s all Harper can do to heal.

The in­jury launched nu­mer­ous thoughts in his head. He flashed back to team­mate Adam Ea­ton cross­ing first base and tear­ing his left ACL in April. He thought about former team­mate Wil­son Ramos, who slipped on a wet field in Na­tion­als Park last Septem­ber and tore his ACL just be­fore the post­sea­son be­gan. Harper cursed the fact the Na­tion­als were play­ing a game on a wet sur­face that started at 10 p.m. He thought Wash­ing­ton’s chances at a World Series and his chance at the NL MVP Award, his se­cond in three sea­sons, may have just crashed. After the re­lief of the MRI re­sults, he started to think about when he will be re­turn­ing to the team.

“There’s not re­ally a recovery timetable,” Harper said. “If I feel good, I’m going to go. If I don’t feel good, you [re­porters] know how I feel and what I do and how my mind­set is, I’m going to push it to the limit. That’s how I’ve al­ways been. I’m never scared to put force into it or any­thing like that. We’re going to take some time to def­i­nitely let it heal. I want to be at 100 per­cent when­ever I play. The

World Series is def­i­nitely on my mind. Play­offs, things like that. One award’s on my mind, as well. You guys know what that one is. It’s a big one to me. Def­i­nitely team ac­co­lades and things like that come in front of my own, but that’s some­thing I’m striv­ing to­wards.”

Harper won the NL MVP award in 2015. He had a down year in 2016. A re­port last season from Sports Il­lus­trated said that Harper had a shoul­der and neck prob­lem. Harper never con­firmed that. The team de­nied it. Sun­day, Harper al­luded to play­ing while in­jured in the past and how he would han­dle that now, giv­ing prom­i­nent con­sid­er­a­tion to the Na­tion­als’ hefty 14-game lead in the Na­tional League East.

“If I feel good, I’m going to play,” Harper said. “If I don’t feel good, then I’m not going to go out there and play. I want to be at 100 per­cent as I go out there. I’ve played through in­jury be­fore and I’m not going to do that any­more in my ca­reer. Of course, if we were in the play­offs right now, I’d tape it up and get out there, hob­ble the best I could, do that. But, as of right now, as a team, I think we’re do­ing a great job. We have a pretty suf­fi­cient lead in Au­gust. Of course that doesn’t mean any­thing un­til you get there. But it does help out the fact that I can sit on it a lit­tle bit, let it heal, let it rest and get to where I need to be.”

There was an­other ad­mis­sion, too: Harper is a wor­rier. He tends to think

the worst even when the mun­dane hits.

“I think I’m going to die ev­ery time I have a stom­ach ache,” Harper said.

The worry made him check his shoul­der, ribs and hips Satur­day night and Sun­day morn­ing after he flew through the air.

“Def­i­nitely a pretty epic fall,” Harper said.

He was up Sun­day. That’s what mat­tered. His move­ment and test re­sults dif­fused the wor­ries of Satur­day night. Michael A. Tay­lor was ac­ti­vated to fill Harper’s spot when Harper was placed on the 10-day dis­abled list with a “Hy­per­ex­tended left knee.” No caveats. No surg­eries. The season’s dreams, and his lig­a­ments, had re­mained in­tact.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

The Wash­ing­ton Na­tion­als hope to have out­fielder Bryce Harper back “later this season” after he suf­fered a bone bruise in his left knee on Satur­day.

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