Time working against a return for Harper

All-Star still in early stages of rehab with month to go in regular season

August 30th, 2017

WASHINGTON -- If the Nationals have any chance of getting back in their lineup in 2017, he will have to clear a number of hurdles in his rehab in a short period of time.

Time, however, is not on the five-time All-Star's side. It has been just over two weeks since Harper hyperextended his left knee against the Giants, and manager Dusty Baker said on Wednesday that the 24-year-old outfielder is not running yet -- much less participating in baseball activities. And with just a month left in the regular season, Baker and the Nats know the clock is ticking.

"I hate the thought of him not being around," Baker said, "but you've got to make those plans."

One of those plans is to have right field patrolled by veteran , who played there in his return to the lineup on Monday.

But even if Harper progresses quickly enough to come back before the regular season concludes, Harper would still need a ramp-up period before the postseason begins. How long that could take is unknown.

"I think it's gonna take some time to get going, of course," said Harper, who revealed that he also strained his left calf on the play. "We don't have much."

Harper, wearing a black sleeve on his calf, spoke in a hushed tone with reporters on Wednesday when discussing his injury, perhaps an acknowledgment that he's still in the early stages of rehab. It's something his manager has picked up on since the 2015 National League Most Valuable Player Award winner landed on the disabled list on Aug. 13.

"I can sense a little frustration in his voice when I ask him, 'How you're doing?' or 'You're walking good,'" Baker said. "Usually, he's not a smart aleck. Lately, he's a little short in temperament, and I can tell that's because he wants to play."

Added Harper: "If I wasn't an athlete and I was just your average person, I'd probably not even be on [my knee] or doing anything. I'm thankful enough to have a strong unit in there and training staff to come in every single day and work hard and do the things I need to do around my body."

Harper mentioned that he has been doing exercises for muscles around his left knee, but he is still avoiding workouts that put stress on the injured area.

Before his setback, Harper was in the midst of his best year since his MVP campaign two seasons ago. In 106 games, Harper slashed .326/.419/.614 with 29 home runs and 87 RBIs. The sense Wednesday was that while there's a chance he may return in time to potentially help in October, there are certainly no guarantees.

"We've got [a while] before we holler 'doomsday,'" Baker said. "We've got a month to go, and then we'll see."