ATLANTA - Sitting on the bench watching his team play without him is an unfamiliar position for Bryce Harper.
Harper is used to being on the field, sprinting around the bases, diving for balls and doing everything he can to help his team win. Now Harper finds himself on the 15-day disabled list after the bursitis in his left knee failed to clear up in the five days the Nationals played without him but still kept him on the active roster.
The Nats relented and put Harper on the DL yesterday, and today, he discussed the state of his sore left knee and his approach to injuries.
“I feel the same as I did the other day. It’s still swollen and crappy,” Harper said. “Just trying to get treatment and see if the swelling will go down. Of course, I don’t like going on the DL. I want to play. It’s tough just sitting there and not doing nothing.”
Harper said he’s not sure at this point whether he’ll be able to get back in the lineup against the Rockies on June 11, when he’s first eligible to return from the DL, or whether he’ll need to rest the knee a bit more. He’s been shut down from all baseball activities at this point, and while he hopes to start ramping things up around the middle or end of next week, he’ll play it by ear.
Harper first injured the knee when colliding with the right field wall at Dodger Stadium on May 13. He played through pain as much as he could over the last few weeks, but the swelling in his knee really increased, he said, after sliding headfirst into third base against the Phillies in the first inning last Sunday.
This time off won’t only allow Harper’s knee a chance to improve and the swelling to subside, it will also allow the rest of his body to get a breather.
“It lets everything heal,” Harper said. “My hand, my wrist, my side, everything. So that’s good. Hopefully, I’ll come back and I’ll be full strength and I’ll get going, hopefully against Colorado.”
As a 20-year-old playing in his first full season in the majors, there are still a number of things that Harper is learning as he goes. One of those things is that there will come times when, despite his inner drive to play through injuries, he needs to bite the bullet and go on the disabled list in order to give his body a chance to heal.
Harper, who twice tried to return to action after his wall collision in Los Angeles only to then be forced back to the bench, admitted that this was one of those cases. In fact, Harper says he probably should’ve gone on the DL after banging into the wall here at Turner Field in Atlanta on April 30, a collision that left him with a bad bruise on his left side.
“Of course. But I didn’t want to go on (the DL). I thought hopefully my body could have got past it,” Harper said. “I think after I hit the wall here (in Atlanta), I think I should have went on the DL, just try to get better and came back 15 days later. With a lot of guys out, I wanted to stay in the lineup the way I was swinging it. Of course, I want to play every day. It’s something that, maybe I’ll learn more in my career to take off 15 days instead of lose the month or whatever it is.
“If we’re in September, October, I’m going to play. I wouldn’t be sitting out right now. It’s just one of those things where, you’ve got to be smart about what you do. Just try to come in every day and get better and do things the right way.”
Prior to colliding with the right field wall here in Atlanta, injuring his left side in the process, Harper had a slash line of .356/.437/.744. In the 19 games he’s played since that collision, he’s hitting .183/.315/.350.
Harper again was asked if his all-out style of play will cause him to be more injury-prone than the average player.
“I think it’s just the way I play,” Harper said. “I go out there, I want to give 110 percent to these fans and for myself. I look at myself in the mirror and tell myself, ‘Hey, you gave it your all today. I went 0-for-4, it happens.’ A good day on the field means I’m going 110 percent, going hard, running everything out and doing things the right way. I’m not going to change that aspect at all.
“The way I work in the offseason, the way I work and get ready for my season, I don’t think I’m prone to having a shorter career. I think I’m going play this game for 20 years, and I don’t care what anybody says.”