Harper out tonight with sore knee, could miss rest of series

PHILADELPHIA - His right knee still sore after getting struck by a fastball Monday night, Bryce Harper is out of the Nationals lineup for tonight's game against the Phillies, and it's possible the reigning NL MVP will miss the remainder of this series.

Harper, who was diagnosed Monday with a contusion, was wearing a sleeve over the knee this afternoon and was still moving gingerly around the visiting clubhouse at Citizens Bank Park. Though he doesn't believe the injury is serious, he does recognize he's not well enough to play right now.

"To tell you the truth, it just feels the same as yesterday," he said. "There's nothing good or bad or anything."

Harper arrived at the ballpark early this afternoon and has been receiving treatment throughout the day. He's also riding a stationary bike and doing other low-impact movements, avoiding full-fledged inaction that might make things worse.

Bryce Harper gray at bat.jpg

"Keep it bent, keep it going," he said. "Hopefully it won't stiffen up too much. ... I've dealt with knees before. I just try to keep it going as best I can."

The injury occurred in the top of the seventh Monday night, when Hellickson's 2-1 fastball struck Harper flush on the side of his front knee. Manager Dusty Baker and head athletic trainer Paul Lessard emerged from the dugout to check on Harper, who after a minute walked down to first base to stay in the game.

The Phillies, though, immediately put that sore knee to the test. Hellickson made four pickoff attempts during the next at-bat, despite Harper giving no indication he might attempt to steal second.

"It just kind of makes the throw-overs even worse today," Baker said. "They picked over four times. He wasn't faking it. He was hurt. That ball got him pretty good."

When Daniel Murphy lined out to left-center, Harper had to slam on the brakes and run about 75 feet back to the bag, ultimately arriving a split-second after Tyler Goeddel's perfect throw. Harper didn't slide back into the base, explaining afterward that "probably wasn't a good idea" because of how his knee felt.

Harper didn't re-take the field for the bottom of the seventh, replaced in right field by Chris Heisey. For tonight's game, Jayson Werth is sliding over to right field, with Clint Robinson starting in left field.

Baker said he'll try to avoid using Harper at all in this game, unless there's an emergency - "Maybe he can do a Kirk Gibson," the manager cracked - and with the Nationals off Thursday before opening a weekend series in Cincinnati, it's possible the club will have him sit until Friday just to play it safe.

That is, of course, unless Harper can convince his manager otherwise.

"I saw him last night, and he said: 'Oh yeah, Skip, I'll be alright,'" Baker said. "I asked him was he limpin' or pimpin'? He said he was pimpin'. I said it looks more like a limp to me."

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