Despite reports that Bryce Harper has been playing through a shoulder injury, the Nationals have repeatedly denied those reports. According to Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post, Harper was called into a meeting with Nationals officials, where he vehemently denied playing hurt in response to the latest report by Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci.
According to Janes, Harper met with Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo, trainer Paul Lessard, and manager Dusty Baker on Tuesday. There Harper said the report wasn’t true. Lessard also reportedly told Rizzo and Baker he had not treated Harper for shoulder injuries since Aug. 23 when a neck issue forced Harper to miss five games.
Harper then told them he did not know where Verducci got the information for his initial report.
Baker called Verducci’s story “inaccurate,” while Rizzo also refuted the report during an appearance on 106.7 the Fan’s Sports Junkies.
“We’re saying the same thing that we said for the last month, that he’s healthy,” Rizzo told the Sports Junkies. “And he is. And we’re moving on with it.”
Harper has had a disappointing season to his standards following up his MVP season from a year ago. This season he is hitting .240/.374/.439 with 24 home runs, 22 doubles, and 21 stolen bases in 141 games.
His numbers are down in the hitting department, but he still leads the majors with 106 walks, while cutting down his strikeout rate from 20 percent in 2015 to 18 percent this season. He has taken a back seat in attention to teammates Daniel Murphy, who is having an MVP season of his own, and rookie Trea Turner who is having a historic start to his career.
Harper denying his health dues no favor to him or the team. The competitor in him will want to stay on the field, if he is hurt. Regardless of if the report is true or not, the Nationals need Harper 100 percent both physically and mentally. The team’s magic number is two to clinch the NL East division title. And they’ll need him to produce in the middle of their lineup in October if they are to move past the NLDS for the first time in Nationals’ history.