WASHINGTON — The Washington Nationals breathed a sigh of relief after tests revealed good news about their star outfielder. Bryce Harper has a “significant bone bruise” in his knee but no ligament damage, general manager Mike Rizzo told reporters Sunday.
Harper was injured while running out a ground ball in the first inning Saturday, twisting his knee as he touched first base.
“We feel we dodged a bullet,” Rizzo said. “We’re optimistic we’ll see him this season.”
Rizzo last saw Harper at 2:30 Sunday morning and said the All-Star outfielder was eager to undergo an MRI. He was encouraged when Harper walked up the clubhouse stairs without assistance.
Harper, 24, was having another MVP-caliber season in driving the Nationals to a 69-45 record and 14 1/2-game lead in the National League East. He’s slugged 29 home runs and his .326/.419/.645 slash line is second only to his 2015 MVP season, when he slugged a career-best 42 home runs.
He’s expected to command a major league record contract – perhaps in excess of $400 million – when he hits the free agent market after the 2018 season.
Harper’s injury further dents a Nationals lineup that’s been taking – and surviving – body blows since the first month of the season. Center fielder Adam Eaton suffered a torn ACL in April and is out for the season. Shortstop Trea Turner fractured his wrist in June and has commenced baseball-related activities, but the Nationals would be fortunate if he returned for more than the final 30 games of the regular season.
And outfielders Michael A. Taylor (oblique strain) and Jayson Werth (foot fracture) have been out five weeks and two months, respectively. Taylor should return soon from a rehab assignment, but Werth likely remains more than two weeks away.