WASHINGTON — Six games should be plenty for Bryce Harper to get back into the swing of things, said Nationals General Manger and President of Baseball Operations Mike Rizzo on Wednesday.
Harper returned to Washington’s lineup Tuesday against the Phillies, going 0-for-2 with a walk and a strikeout in the 4-1 loss, after missing more than 40 games with a hyperextended left knee.
“Forty-five days he hasn’t played,” Rizzo told The Sports Junkies during his weekly appearance. “He’ll get all of his at-bats. The good thing is he’ll be able to shake the rust off, and move around and do baseball activities, and use his instincts and be an instinctive player again.”
Related: Harper’s Injury, Explained
“I think that’s the biggest hurdle that players have when they come off injuries,” he said, “in their own minds knowing that they can do said activity. Right away, Harp has to make a bursting move — go to the corner, get the ball, spin and throw, utilize the leg and push off and that type of thing — and he handled that test very, very well. He went into the corner. There was no hesitancy or anything like that, and really showed a good burst, good speed. He spun and threw and made a good throw to second base. So that was one test.”
When Harper went on the disabled list, he was a leading candidate for MVP, batting .326 with 29 home runs, 87 RBI, 66 walks and a 1.034 OPS in 106 games. Now, he has five regular season games to try to get it all back before the postseason, against likely NLDS opponent Chicago.
“I think there’ll be enough bats for him to get his eye back, and to get his timing down,” Rizzo said. “We’ll see. As long as he feels strong and healthy, after the season’s over we’ll have four days to do whatever we have to do to get ready for the playoffs, and I feel good about our chances.”
Harper told Rizzo after Tuesday’s game he felt good in his return: “I talked to him, I said, ‘Wow. They tested you right away to go down the line.’ And he said, ‘Yeah. It felt good. It felt strong.’ He didn’t think about it going into the corner, and that’s, to me, the key to the whole thing.”
Rizzo is a Game of Thrones fan, out of necessity — “to get into any kind of conversation with a player, you have to know a little bit about Game of Thrones” — he revealed while answering the Burke & Herbert Bank Fan Question of the Week.
Social media was abuzz with the Nationals’ Game of Thrones cosplay. Did you dress up as a Lannister or a Stark? — Danny in Glover Park
“I was wearing my usual GM uniform, which that night I think it was jeans and a golf shirt,” Rizzo said. “No, I did not participate in the Game of Thrones. But it was amazing. The things that these guys go through to put those uniforms on, it was something.”
“A lot of money went into those costumes and they put on a good show for everybody walking through,” he said. “There’s no more hazing, or no more rookie hazing or that type of thing any more, because of the new CBA and it’s just not the right thing to do. So each member of the team dressed up in a costume, and usually you have to parade through an airport when you’re flying somewhere, but we were busing from New York to Philly and it was probably a pretty uncomfortable little bus ride for those guys in those tight costumes.”
“Jayson Werth couldn’t go through an airport,” John Auville zinged. “He had like a five-foot long sword. I mean, they’re not going to let him go through security with that thing.”
“And I think it was real,” Rizzo replied with a laugh. “I think it was a real sword!”