WASHINGTON — Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper has suffered notable injuries in the past and gritted through them. As he begins a stint on the 10-day disabled list with no timetable to return, he let the media and fans know that he won’t be doing that again.
“It’s on my timetable,” he said of a bone bruise in his knee, suffered after hyperextending it after slipping on a wet first base. “It’s whatever I feel. We’re not going to rush or anything like that. So if I feel good, I’m going to play. If I don’t feel good, I’m not going to go out there and play.
“I want to be at 100 percent as I go out there. I played through injury before, and I’m not going to do that anymore in my career.”
That’s a somewhat polarizing stance in modern sports. While almost no one advocates playing injured, people who play, and play well through injury are revered. While Harper’s position is likely common, it’s unusual to hear players talk about that.
Other factors that he mentioned were the fact that these are regular season games and that the team has a huge division lead right now.
Harper was also candid with his desire to be considered for his MVP-caliber start to the season. After Saturday night, Harper was hitting a line of .326/.419/.614. Unlike his MVP campaign in 2015 when he led baseball in runs, home runs, on-base percentage, slugging, OPS and OPS+, Harper does not lead MLB in any offensive category this season.
“The World Series is definitely on my mind, the playoffs, things like that,” he said. “But one award is on my mind as well, if you guys know what that one is. It’s a big one to me. So definitely team accolades and things like that come in front of my own, but it’s what I’m striving toward.”
Regardless of whether he comes back for the good of his team or another piece for the mantle, Harper has the confidence of his manager.
“We don’t know how long he’s going to be out, but he will be back before the end of the season,” Dusty Baker said of Harper. “He’s young. He probably mends well, hasn’t had very many injuries to this date.
“We’re not gonna rush him back, but we expect him to be back for the stretch drive and to be healthy. That’s what we want. We want him healthy.”