Harper battling back tightness, Nats insist he's fine

BOSTON - He might not be thrilled about it - or happy about it at all - but Bryce Harper will be on the bench for today's series finale against the Red Sox.

Manager Davey Johnson has decided to give his 19-year-old outfielder a day off to ease some tightness in his back. Johnson had bench coach Randy Knorr and a trainer come to him and inform him that Harper has been receiving treatment on the back, and with Harper having played in all of the 37 games the Nationals have played since his call-up, Johnson decided to give Harper a day to rest.

"Bryce hasn't said anything to me," Johnson told reporters. "We're just being on the safe side."

The Nats skipper said that he expects Harper to be back in the lineup tomorrow at Toronto. The Nationals are confident the back issue is strictly muscular, and have not scheduled an MRI for their rookie outfielder, who is leading the team in batting average, slugging and OPS.

Harper did take batting practice today, an indication that he's feeling well enough to pinch hit.

The phenom wasn't aware that he would be out of the lineup today, so Johnson's decision took him by surprise. He showed up at Fenway Park expecting to take his hacks against Red Sox ace Jon Lester, but will instead be on the bench.

"Lester's on the mound, so I wanted to face him," Harper said. "Whatever. Nothing I can do."

The Red Sox have made a late change to their lineup, as Daniel Nava has been scratched due to a sore left hand. Here's the new Boston lineup:

CF Scott Podsednik
2B Dustin Pedroia
1B Adrian Gonzalez
DH David Ortiz
C Jarrod Saltalamacchia
3B Will Middlebrooks
RF Ryan Sweeney
SS Nick Punto
LF Darnell McDonald
P Jon Lester

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