By Chris Lingebach

WASHINGTON — Bryce Harper is out of the Nationals’ lineup for the fourth straight game, though manager Dusty Baker isn’t certain Harper won’t be available off the bench Friday evening against the Braves.

Harper has missed the past three games after leaving a loss to the Giants Saturday after the sixth inning with neck stiffness. Harper may be close to returning after five full days of rest.

“He’s better,” Baker told reporters Friday. “Decided to keep him out another day, but he is better. ”

Harper will meet with a chiropractor this afternoon, after which Baker will decide his availability for tonight’s game, Baker says.

“Our staff is working on him every day and it’s better than it was,” he said. “I think these days off helped him. Like I said, I can’t say more than that because the chiropractor’s coming in to see him today. Hopefully they can relieve the spasm.”

The Nationals aren’t considering a disabled list stint for Harper just yet. If he were to go to the DL however, they could make the move retroactive to Sunday, which would reduce his time away from the club.

“The longer it goes, I mean. I hope not,” Baker said. “You’d probably have to make a decision within a few days because we’re going short, but right now, like I said, with the progress he’s making, we haven’t discussed that.”

Some have theorized Harper may have been playing with an undisclosed injury this summer. While that might explain the precipitous drop in performance from his MVP 2015 campaign, there is little evidence to support such a claim.

Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci reported precisely that on Friday, though.

What’s wrong with Bryce Harper? One of the more frequently asked and vexing questions of this season may have its answer in a previously undisclosed injury. The Washington Nationals rightfielder and 2015 National League MVP has been playing through a right shoulder injury for the past two months, according to a source close to the team.

The injury affects the area at the top and back of his shoulder and at the base of his neck. Harper has been receiving treatment for the injury, the source said, including cupping therapy and Active Release Technique. Harper is hitting .233 with 20 home runs and 57 RBIs. Last year he hit .330 with 42 homers and 99 RBIs.

Nationals GM Mike Rizzo has since shot down that theory, according to Chelsea Janes of The Washington Post.


Stay tuned.

Follow @ChrisLingebach and @1067TheFan on Twitter.


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