Johnson: Harper might need offseason knee surgery

After leaving last night's game in the fourth inning due to a bout of dehydration, Davey Johnson will be back in the Nationals dugout tonight.

Johnson said he made sure to drink lots of water, got a good night's sleep last night and is feeling rejuvenated. He declared himself good to go for tonight.

"I'm feeling like my old ornery self," said Johnson, who joked that he pinch-hit for himself last night when he called on bench coach Randy Knorr to take over managerial duties.

A lot has been said in the last 20 hours about Bryce Harper not running out a grounder in the eighth inning last night, some of it by Knorr. The Nats bench coach said that Harper has let his frustration affect his effort level at times recently, and he viewed that eighth-inning groundout, which came on a 3-1 pitch, as an example of that.

Asked his opinion on the matter today, Johnson backed Knorr's comments but also indicated that Harper's health could be a factor that's playing into the 20-year-old's effort level dropping a bit at times.

"My opinion is you take nothing for granted," Johnson said. "You hit a ground ball, the guy could boot it. You run. Anytime you quit going hard, it's a losing attitude. With him, I'm in between knowing if he's babying his knee, because he's usually 100 percent in. But I'll talk to him. ...

"I haven't seen a lot of it. I've seen a little of it. The fly ball, he made a right turn (towards the dugout). I questioned him on that. I don't know what's going through his mind. I'll have a conversation."

Harper missed more than a month due to bursitis in his left knee, and while he hasn't mentioned the knee being much of an issue since returning June 1, it's very possible that Harper's health is a factor that is affecting his ability to play at full speed.

"I think (the knee is) still an issue," Johnson said. "I think it's probably there. He can probably play with it, but if he head-first slides or dives in the outfield, it's probably going to flare up. But hopefully he'll get through the season."

Even if he does get through the season without the knee being much more of an issue, Harper might need to have offseason surgery to remove the bursa sac in his knee. That's something that Harper and the Nats would obviously prefer to avoid, but if the knee continues to plague Harper, surgery might be something that team medical director Dr. Wiemi Douoguih would recommend.

"That was talked about a while back," Johnson said. That's definitely an option. ... I think it's going to be up to Bryce and Dr. Wiemi."

On another note, Steve Lombardozzi is starting at second base tonight for the Nats, with Anthony Rendon taking a seat. Part of that is due to the matchup against Mets right-hander Zack Wheeler (Rendon is 0-for-3 with two strikeouts against Wheeler), but part of it is also because of the heavy workload Rendon has had this season.

Rendon played in just 43 games last season due to a major ankle injury that knocked him out for an extended period, and the collegiate baseball schedule obviously doesn't compare to the grind of a professional season. Rendon has already appeared in 114 games this season, and Johnson will pick his spots to give his second baseman a day off down the stretch.

"Some of us think that he should be on an innings limit, like some of the pitchers, because this is the first season he's played over 50 games," Johnson joked. "A lot of guys think (Rendon) might wear down because since we signed him, I think the most he played in a year was maybe 30, 40 games. But I occasionally hear from my coaches, 'Give him a rest.' "

That's what Johnson is doing tonight. He's also going with a hot Lombardozzi, who suddenly has two homers in his last 12 at-bats after not having a ball leave the yard in his first 230 at-bats of the season.

"Lombo's got this power surge going, so I'm going to take advantage of it," Johnson said.

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