Nats’ Harper avoids torn ligament, out indefinitely

Washington Nationals All-Star rightfielder Bryce Harper is out indefinitely with a significant bone bruise suffered while running the bases Saturday, but he avoided ligament or tendon damage in his left knee.

Harper, 24, was placed on the 10-day disabled list before Sunday’s doubleheader against the San Francisco Giants, with outfielder Michael Taylor activated from the DL. Taylor has been out since July 6 due to a right oblique strain. Pedro Severino was also added as the team’s 26th man for the split doubleheader.

Nationals RF Bryce Harper gets helped off the field by hitting coach Rick Schu (39) and trainer Paul Lessard after suffering a knee injury Saturday. (Michael Owens-USA TODAY Sports)

“We dodged a bullet here,” said Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo. “The bone bruise is something of significance, and we’re going to treat him cautiously and hopefully have him back later on this season.

Harper was injured when slipping on a wet first base during the first inning of Saturday’s 3-1 victory over the Giants. He was running out a ground ball and while avoiding contact with first baseman Ryder Jones, his left foot slipped on the base. Harper’s leg buckled, he went airborne and fell to the ground in significant pain.

The game had started after 10 p.m. following a three-hour rain delay, and it was raining when his injury occurred.

An MRI and examination by medical personnel revealed the bone bruise on the inner part of his knee but no ligament or structural damage. The Nationals are confident he will be able to return this season.

Harper is hitting .326 with 29 home runs and 87 RBIs this season. Washington (69-45) entered Sunday with a 14 1/2-game lead in the National League East, the second-best record in the National League behind the Los Angeles Dodgers (82-34).

“We have no timeline whatsoever,” Rizzo said. “We’ll treat it day-to-day. We’ll treat it cautiously. We put ourselves in a position that we can treat it cautiously and we’ll continue down that road.”

Harper’s injury raised the question about whether the game should have been played following significant rain and with rain still falling. The Giants do not return to Washington this season, and Major League Baseball was in charge of determining whether the teams played on Saturday.

“The bases are hard and they’re often slippery,” Rizzo said. “We’ve had people slip when it wasn’t raining on those bases. So I think the conditions aided on it, but the bases are hard, slick at times and you got a hustling player just trying to play the game. Harp plays it – as we’ve said before – 100 miles an hour with his hair on fire. That’s the way he’s going to play it throughout his career and you can’t fault a player for going hard all the time.”

Taylor had been on a rehab assignment with Double-A Harrisburg. The Nationals now have 11 players on the disabled list, with shortstop Trea Turner and outfielder Jayson Werth expected to return in the next few weeks.

The first round of the NL Division Series is scheduled for Oct. 6.

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