Harper exits after fouling ball off left ankle (with update)

Bryce Harper has been taken out of the first game of today’s doubleheader after bunting a ball off the inside of his left ankle in the bottom of the first inning.

The Nationals rookie outfielder limped around in obvious pain and dropped to a knee before getting attended to by a trainer. Harper remained in the game at the time, finishing his at-bat despite the fact he was noticeably hobbling.

He struck out swinging at a Ben Sheets curveball just a pitch after the foul bunt.

Harper played the field in the second inning but didn’t emerge from the dugout when the top of the third was set to begin.

Roger Bernadina took Harper’s place in center field to start the third inning.

Harper is batting .268 with eight homers and 26 RBIs with the Nationals this season. His numbers have tailed off recently, as he’s been pitched to very carefully by opposing teams, who are giving him soft stuff away and then pounding him inside with fastballs.

The timing of Harper’s injury isn’t great for the Nationals. It comes just two innings into the first game of a twin-bill and also comes after the team had designated two outfielders for assignment over the last three days.

Both Rick Ankiel and Xavier Nady are no longer options for manager Davey Johnson, who is currently working with just a four-man bench.

He’s left with just Tyler Moore, Mark DeRosa and Sandy Leon on the bench for at least the rest of the first game.

For what it’s worth, outfielder Corey Brown continues to tear it up at Triple-A Syracuse. The 26-year-old is hitting .302 with 21 homers, 58 RBIs and 13 stolen bases this season.

He could be an option for the Nats if Harper needs to miss an extended period of time.

Syracuse is scheduled to play at 7 p.m. tonight. Wonder how quickly Brown could arrive if he’s needed.

Update: The Nationals are calling Harper’s injury a “sore left ankle” and saying he was removed as a “precautionary measure.”

Sounds like Harper should be OK, but we obviously don’t yet know about his status for the second game of today’s doubleheader.

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