Nationals manager Dusty Baker said he's sensing that slugger Bryce Harper is frustrated with his injury and is "a long ways from running," and Harper said he also has a calf strain in the same leg, reports the Washington Post's Chelsea Janes.
Harper suffered a significant bone bruise in his left knee after slipping on a wet base on Aug. 12. The injury initially looked to be more severe than a bone bruise, as Harper's knee straightened unnaturally and the star hit the ground writhing in pain.
Shortly after the injury, the Nationals said they expected Harper to return before the end of the regular season, prompting general manager Mike Rizzo to say that he felt the team "dodged a bullet."
Before Harper can begin to set a target date for a return, he must be cleared for baseball activities and get some at-bats, and he won't get that clearance before he can run, so time is of the essence here for Washington. The Nationals' Triple-A (Syracuse Chiefs) and Double-A affiliates (Harrisburg Senators) both play their last regular season game on Sept. 4, and neither side is in position to qualify for the playoffs, so Harper's tune-up at-bats will have to come in simulated games rather than an organized baseball game.
Jayson Werth's return to the lineup has ameliorated Harper's absence just a bit. Baker told Janes that he's playing Werth, who hit a home run in his first game back from the DL on Tuesday, in right field to prepare for a scenario in which Harper does not return.
The Nationals are 11-6 since Harper's injury and maintain a more-than-comfortable 14-game lead over the Marlins in the NL East. Washington's last regular season game is on Oct. 1, and the National League Division Series begins on Oct. 6.