PHILADELPHIA - Bryce Harper has played through some hip soreness in each of the first two games of this three-game set with the Phillies, but Harper isn't in the Nationals' lineup tonight for the finale.
Manager Davey Johnson has opted to give Harper the day off to rest his ailing hip, this after Harper admitted to his skipper today that the hip is still "barking."
"I talked to him the last two, three days about how he was feeling, and he gave me the thumbs up," Johnson said. "But he was getting more treatment today, and so I talked to him. I said, 'I know you want to play. And you know I want you to play. But is it bad? Is it barking?' He said, 'It's barking.' 'OK, you're off.' So it was that easy. Or that tough, however you want to put it.
"I'm a firm believer that if somebody has had a little aggravation, if it's bothering him a little bit, I'm going to rest him. It could lead to a bigger injury, and then he misses more time. I've always done that. But he's still young. I saw him over there in the game and then of course in the training room last night, and he said, 'I'm fine.' But then today he was getting treatment, so I knew something was wrong."
Corey Brown will play left field for the Nationals tonight, while Harper will get to benefit from two straight days of rest. The Nats have a scheduled off-day tomorrow, so Johnson hopes that Harper will be able to come back rested and healthy on Friday when the Nats open a three-game set in Miami against the Marlins.
Harper's numbers this season are pretty impressive (.275/.378/.507 with 19 homers and 49 RBIs in 100 games,) and they're probably even more impressive when you consider the injuries that Harper has dealt with.
He played through a bad bruise on his left side stemming from a wall collision in Atlanta, and then tried to play through bursitis in his knee before needing to land on the DL for more than a month. That injury came from a wall collision in Los Angeles, a play that also led to back pain. Harper has also dealt with a foot injury and now the hip issue.
And that's just the stuff we know about.
"Yeah, it's been tough," Johnson said. "I know he missed 31 games during that stretch and then struggled when he came back because of his knee. He's still awful young, and he's still learning the league and pitchers. This is an important time for him. It's a shame that he hasn't been 100 percent healthy."
Meanwhile, Johnson announced that Tanner Roark is going to move into the Nats' rotation and get the start Saturday against the Marlins, pushing Ross Ohlendorf into the bullpen.
Roark has been exceptional since coming up from Triple-A, posting a 1.19 ERA over 22 2/3 innings with 19 strikeouts and seven walks. Ohlendorf, meanwhile, has struggled his last few times out, having trouble getting past the 75-pitch mark without seeing his effectiveness drop off.
Johnson has talked about wanting to give Roark a shot in the rotation, and the rookie right-hander will get that shot Saturday.
"It's nothing against Ohlendorf," Johnson said. "Ohlendorf's been great, but I think that the young man has deserved an opportunity to start a game or two before the end of the year. And I'll keep Ohlendorf in the same slot as him in case there's any hiccups. ...
"(Ohlendorf's) done a great job. I have no fault in him. This is more ... I don't think he's out of gas or anything like that. This is more giving Tanner Roark an opportunity to start a game up here in the big leagues, see how he does. He's been unbelievably good out of the 'pen. But he's a young starter, and our reports are, Spin (Williams, minor league pitching coordinator) really likes him as a big league starter. So we're going to take a good look at that."
Johnson had discussed possibly tweaking the rotation with tomorrow's day off, just having Stephen Strasburg start Saturday on normal rest. But Johnson revealed that Strasburg has been dealing with a minor hamstring issue his past couple starts, and the Nats felt it was better to keep the rotation on its normal turn.
"I talked to Stephen about it and (pitching coach Steve) McCatty talked to him about it," Johnson said. "He's got a few little issues with that hammy still. Feel like it'd be better to give him the extra day.
"He has a little tightness in his hammy. ... So there's no sense taking any chance. Just not worth the risk/reward."