By Chris Lingebach

WASHINGTON — It’s been two-and-a-half weeks since Bryce Harper’s freak injury and the plan for his return hasn’t changed. The Nationals remain optimistic he’ll be able to return in time for the postseason.

“We’re very optimistic that he’ll play in the postseason,” Mike Rizzo told The Sports Junkies Wednesday. “He’ll get some at-bats at the end of the regular season to prepare himself for the postseason.”

“But hey, these are injuries,” he added. “You never know what’s gonna happen.”

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“But we’re optimistic. Our medical people are on top of things and he’s progressing like we want him to,” he said. “When we talk about a bone bruise, a lot of people think, including myself in the beginning, he bruised a bone, that you get hit with pitch, you get a bruise.

“This is much more delicate than a typical bone bruise. You saw what the hyper-extensions of the knee did. Those bones in that knee hit together and it’s painful, and it’s problematic to do some things. He’s moving around easier and easier right now, and he’s doing his upper- and lower-body workouts right now. He’s in the weight room and he’s keeping in great condition and we’re rehabbing him. That’s kind of the extent of it.”

Harper hyper-extended his left knee while attempting to leg out an infield grounder in an Aug. 12 game against the Giants. Slick from rain, Harper slipped on first base as he planted his left foot, sending him tumbling to the ground.

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The Nationals dodged a bullet in his injury diagnosis, avoiding anything which would require season-ending surgery, though damage was still done.

“It’s definitely a different injury,” Harper said Wednesday afternoon. “My knee’s feeling okay. Going into a calf strain, and of course that bone bruise, it takes time. That’s all it’s been.”

“I’m just trying to take some time,” he said. “It’s only been two weeks, two weeks plus three days, or something like that.” But who’s counting?

“So it’s still fairly new. I’m just trying to take it day by day and see where I’m at every day I come in.”

The compound injury involves a bone bruise on his knee coupled with a calf strain. In the meantime, Harper’s been controlling what he can control, even offering a laugh as he replied to an inquiry about which exercises he’s able to perform: “Calf raises?”

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His daily goal is to work out the parts “around my body that take a little stress off the knee area and that calf area, and certain things that can hopefully speed up recovery.”

“I’m just going to take it what’s best for this organization and what’s best for myself,” Harper said. “I don’t want to come back and I pop something and I have to have surgery or something goes bad.”

“It was a freak accident, freak incident,” he said. “I feel like all my injuries have been impact injuries. I’ve never really had any problems with a calf strain or anything like that, so this will be the first time going through that and wondering what that feels like.”

We don’t want him to go out and perform if he’s going to further exacerbate the injury, obviously,” Rizzo said. “We want him to play up to his capabilities. If he’s healthy and able and pain-free, and the doctors and Harp give the green light, we’ll certainly let him play.”

“And we ask with our players that they be honest with their condition, and he always is,” he added. “But let’s face it, you’re gonna have to do a lot to keep him out of the lineup come playoff time. Like I said, we’re not going down that road. We’re optimistic that he’s going to be available and that’s how we’re planning for it.”

Follow @ChrisLingebach and @1067TheFan on Twitter

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