PHILADELPHIA - Last night, Davey Johnson expressed some frustration that he hadn’t been informed about Bryce Harper’s hip injury, a problem that left Harper limping and clearly a little gimpy after some swings last night.
Johnson still hadn’t been fully brought up to speed on Harper’s status by the time he met with reporters around 5 p.m. today.
“I mean, to this day, even now, they have not told me anything is wrong with him,” Johnson said. “So with that in mind, I know he was getting some treatment again today. I saw him getting treatment yesterday and I asked the trainer, ‘Is he OK?’ He said, ‘Yeah he’s fine.’ I don’t think they assume it’s anything worth worrying about.
“You ask him, he’s 100 percent, thumbs up, all the time. I really want him in there. He’s still in a learning process. He’s still a big threat. He says he’s OK. Some of the moves he’s made at home plate after he swings, hopefully he’ll play the next two days and then have Thursday off, go back in the training room and get rid of whatever’s ailing him.”
Nationals head athletic trainer Lee Kuntz met with reporters after our session with Johnson, and characterized Harper’s hip condition as just “soreness”. Kuntz said he wasn’t aware of when Harper started feeling the discomfort, and indicated it’s nothing different than what most players in the clubhouse are feeling at this point in the season.
“I mean, he has some soreness and he’s just getting treatment on it,” Kuntz said. “We’re at that time of year where people are getting a little dinged up. You guys know that. Is it sore? Yeah. Can he play? Yeah.
“You see (him limping) early and then sometimes you don’t see it for a while and then it rears its ugly head again, but it’s that time of year. A lot of people are nicked up.”
Kuntz might not think Harper’s ailment is anything too serious, but Johnson feels like he still needs to be made aware of all his players’ bumps and bruises so that he can determine how best to structure his lineup and his in-game managerial decisions.
“That’s why I was a little upset with the training crew,” Johnson said. “Because if anybody’s ever getting treatment, no matter how small they think it is, I need to know. I wanted to get (Scott) Hairston in the lineup the other day, and I was going to take out either Harper or (Denard) Span. Knowing that he was getting treatment on his hip, I could’ve given him yesterday off, because I wanted to ensure he’s ready to play these next two days and then have Thursday off. It’s very important. I always like to know anytime any player gets treatment.
“I think sometimes players don’t want the manager to know they’re getting treatment, but I need that. It’s part of the information I can use to ensure that they can go through the year injury-free. They might be able to play with that injury, but it also might be better to take a day off, back off and let somebody else (play). I got guys that I’ve got all the confidence in the world sitting on the bench. They need an opportunity to play if somebody’s a little bit under the weather.”
One of the guys who won’t be on the Nationals bench in September is Danny Espinosa, who was not part of the team’s final wave of September call-ups today.
Espinosa struggled mightily with the Nats this season, hitting just .158/.193/.272 in 44 games before being placed on the disabled list and subsequently demoted to Triple-A Syracuse. At Syracuse, Espinosa’s offensive numbers didn’t really improve much; he batted .216/.280/.286 with 101 strikeouts and 19 walks in 75 games.
Still, Espinosa is a borderline elite defender at second base and above-average at shortstop. There is a thought that Espinosa could have served a purpose as a late-inning defensive replacement and pinch-runner if the Nats were to call him up, but that’s not something that Johnson or general manager Mike Rizzo felt they wanted to do.
“I consider Danny an everyday player. I love Danny,” Johnson said. “The situation we’re in right now and the struggles he’s had this year, I wouldn’t want him to be sitting around here not playing. I don’t think he would’ve been happy with it. I know he’s got a lot of talent.
“It would be nice to put him in to pinch-run and occasionally pinch-hit and provide some defense. He could do that. But it’s so far down his role, that would be such a lesser role than what I’ve always envisioned for him while he’s been here. So he could be more mad at me, because I did not want him here and not have him in the lineup. It’s that simple.”