ATLANTA — Going on the disabled list was not something Bryce Harper wanted to do. But after struggling with pain and swelling in his left knee for the better part of three weeks after his collision with the wall in right field at Dodger Stadium, it became unavoidable.
One week since Harper was last in the lineup, the Nationals’ outfielder said his knee was still “swollen and crappy,” and that he had not made very much progress in the past few days.
“I’m just trying to get treatment and see if the swelling will go down,” he said. “I don’t like going on the DL. I want to play. It’s tough just sitting there and not doing (anything).”
It has been 20 days since Harper hit the wall in Los Angeles. A violent collision that sent him to the hospital for X-rays, an MRI, concussion tests and 11 stitches in his chin. But it’s been 33 days since Harper slammed the left side of his body into the right field wall here, at Turner Field, in an attempt to rob pitcher Tim Hudson of a home run.
In retrospect, Harper said, it might’ve been best if he’d gone on the disabled list then and allowed his body to recover. Harper was in the lineup the following day after X-rays on his ribs were negative.
“I think after I hit the wall here (in Atlanta), I think I should’ve went on the DL, just to try to get better and come back 15 days later,” Harper said Sunday morning. “With a lot of guys out, I wanted to stay in the lineup the way I was swinging it.
“I want to play everyday. It’s something that maybe I’ll learn more in my career, to take 15 days off instead of lose the month or whatever it is.”
Learning how to preserve his body is something that a few Nationals veterans have discussed with Harper over the course of his time in the big leagues. Ryan Zimmerman played in 162 games in 2007 but he’s said that he’s since learned that when his body is telling him to take time off, he must listen.
In Harper’s case, he admitted that sliding into third base last Sunday against the Phillies was what really exacerbated the bursitis with his knee, though it’s been swollen since the collision in L.A.
“If we’re in September, October, I’m going to play,” Harper said. “I wouldn’t be sitting out right now. It’s just one of those things where, you’ve got to be smart about what you do. Just try to come in every day and get better and do things the right way.”
Harper was hitting .344 with a .430 on-base percentage and .720 slugging percentage when he hit the wall that night in Atlanta. In the 18 games he’s played in since, he’s hit .193 with four extra-base hits. Since he hit the wall in Los Angeles on May 13, Harper has played in nine games. He’s hit .250 with two homers in that span.
The time off, though, will allow Harper’s body to heal — in his knee and elsewhere.
“My hand, my wrist, my side, everything,” Harper said. “So that’s good. Hopefully I’ll come back and I’ll be full strength and I’ll get going, hopefully against Colorado.
“(By going on the DL) I don’t have to come to the field and try to get ready for a game and think, ‘Oh, man, if I feel better, I can play. If not, then I’m, not going to play.’ It’s nice just being able to try to get treatment on it and try to be ready in 10 days and see how I’m feeling from there.”
The plan, for now, is for Harper to try to begin hitting again at the “middle or the end of next week,” he said. “If I feel good. If I don’t, I’ll keep off it.”