Sore thumb could lead to a couple of days off for Harper

JUPITER, Fla. - You sure wouldn't know it by looking at his recent numbers, but Bryce Harper is still dealing with a sore left thumb, and it might force him out of the Nationals lineup for a few days.

Harper initially injured his thumb Friday against the Tigers when he got jammed by a Drew Smyly pitch. After getting a day off Saturday, Harper has played in three straight games, going 8-for-8 with a walk in that span.

Today, however, Harper got jammed again in his second at-bat (an RBI single to right) and the soreness in his thumb returned. Manager Davey Johnson said that trainer Lee Kuntz is "concerned" about the lingering soreness, and will talk to team medical director Wiemi Douoguih to see how to proceed with Harper.

"I might have to give him a couple days off. I don't know," Johnson said. "Usually, those are just kind of nagging injuries, but if it gets real bad, you give him a little cortisone in there and that quiets it down. But I don't know if it's that bad.

"We'll check with Wiemi and see what he thinks. I've had it. Just something you've got to kind of live with and hope you don't get jammed for a while, but if you're hitting good, you need to get jammed once in a while."

Harper has been on fire this spring. He's currently batting .459 and has reached base in 10 straight at-bats. He's also gotten 64 plate appearances in the Grapefruit League season, enough to get him ready for the regular season.

Johnson said that he would consider resting Harper for the rest of spring training if the medical staff suggests it, but he'd prefer not to do so.

"I mean, I don't have a problem (resting him the rest of the week) if I thought that that would be the thing," Johnson said. "I just have to check with Wiemi and see what he recommends. ... (But) he needs to have some playing. You don't want to just shut a guy down and let him have five days off before the opener."

One option would be to let Harper rest these next two days and then get a couple at-bats in the Nats' final exhibition game, which comes Friday against the Yankees at Nationals Park. Yankees lefty Andy Pettitte is scheduled to start that game.

Nats fans might remember what happened when Harper faced Pettitte last season; the then-19-year-old Harper went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts against the 40-year-old left-hander. You can bet Harper, who grew up a Yankees fan, would like a shot to face Pettitte again, even if it's just in an exhibition.

The good news for the Nats is that even after jamming the thumb in his second at-bat today, Harper wasn't in so much discomfort that he needed to sit out the rest of the way. Johnson planned to take Harper out of the game after that at-bat, but Harper asked to stay in for one more plate appearance and drew a four-pitch walk.

One might be concerned not only about the thumb, but that Harper is peaking too early, given how well he's played this spring, especially the last week. Johnson doesn't have such a concern.

"I'm not worried about that. He's been swinging the bat good since he got here," Johnson said.

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