Bryce Harper is ‘running lightly’ as he makes progress toward return to Nationals

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/nationals-journal/wp/2017/09/13/br
BYBy Chelsea Janes
September 13
Bryce Harper is running again, but not like this just yet. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)
Bryce Harper is running again, but not like this just yet. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper has started swinging at baseballs again, resuming a nearly lifelong habit and ratcheting up optimism for a timely return. Harper is hitting off a tee and taking soft toss, according to Manager Dusty Baker, who did not elaborate on the intensity with which Harper is taking those swings.

Harper has been playing catch for a week now. And perhaps most importantly, “He’s been running lightly,” Baker said. After Harper suffered a severe bone bruise to his knee and a calf strain in mid-August, running always seemed likely to be the final hurdle.

“He’s in the process,” Baker said. “I think, if anything, that five-day layoff [between the end of the regular season and the playoffs] will probably help him more than anybody here.”

Harper isn’t the only National still healing. Jayson Werth, who missed nearly three months with a broken foot, missed the Nationals’ past five games with a sore shoulder. He was hit by a pitch during his rehab assignment and never looked quite right when he returned despite his initial offensive outburst. Werth was initially in Tuesday’s lineup but was sore when he hit in the cage and decided not to push it. He was back in the lineup Wednesday.

“Very relieved,” Baker said. “It’s going to take some time to get his timing back.”

Werth was 0 for his past 20 before sitting out these games, and Baker admitted that the shoulder “probably had something to do with it.”

Howie Kendrick has been playing left field in Werth’s place, and he is hitting .323 in 38 games since he joined the Nationals. In 55 games this season, Werth is hitting .240, though the last five games hurt that average considerably. If Harper returns in time for October, Baker will have to decide between Kendrick and Werth as his starting left fielder. Werth has two-plus weeks to make his push.

Meanwhile, Daniel Murphy is out of the Nationals’ lineup with a stiff neck. Baker did not seem worried about his second baseman and said Murphy played through the trouble Tuesday.

“Just trying to get him well,” Baker said. “One hundred percent.”

Meanwhile, right-handed reliever Koda Glover tweeted Wednesday that he will not be back this season. Glover battled what the team called “severe inflammation in his right rotator cuff” and has not pitched since June. Glover entered the season with a chance to be the Nationals’ closer. He will now be absent from their playoff bullpen, a significant blow to their right-handed arsenal — though the Nationals had expected Glover might not be ready for quite some time.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS (88-56)

Trea Turner SS

Wilmer Difo 2B

Anthony Rendon 3B

Ryan Zimmerman 1B

Howie Kendrick LF

Michael A. Taylor CF

Jayson Werth LF

Matt Wieters C

Max Scherzer P

ATLANTA BRAVES (65-78)

Ozzie Albies 2B

Dansby Swanson SS

Freddie Freeman 1B

Matt Kemp LF

Nick Markakis RF

Tyler Flowers C

Rio Ruiz 3B

Lane Adams CF

Luiz Gohara P

More on the Nationals:

Tuesday’s recap: Gonzalez reaches milestone in otherwise listless night for Nats

The Nationals should forget about catching the Dodgers and plan for the postseason

Are Nats Park crowds lame? Two Post columnists discuss

Nationals release 2018 schedule, featuring more off-days

Victor Robles is already showing why he’s one of baseball’s top prospects

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