PHILADELPHIA -- Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper was feeling better on Saturday even though he was out of the lineup for the second consecutive game with tightness in his groin area. Manager Dusty Baker was not sure whether Harper would be able to pinch-hit in Saturday's game against the Phillies, but
PHILADELPHIA -- Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper was feeling better on Saturday even though he was out of the lineup for the second consecutive game with tightness in his groin area. Manager Dusty Baker was not sure whether Harper would be able to pinch-hit in Saturday's game against the Phillies, but Baker said that Harper could return to the lineup on Sunday.
"He's better," Baker said. "When they tell me they're better, I like to hold him out at least another day. We'll see."
Harper injured himself making a diving catch in the third inning against the D-backs on Thursday afternoon, although he stayed in the game until the sixth inning. He has enjoyed a hot start to the season, batting .376/.504/.723 with nine home runs. Rafael Bautista -- ranked as the club's No. 13 prospect by MLBPipeline.com -- made his first Major League start on Saturday in Harper's absence.
Who closes now?
With co-closers Shawn Kelley and Koda Glover both on the disabled list, who will pitch the ninth?
"Same thing as yesterday, I don't know," Baker said. "We'll figure it out, see how the game goes. That's kind of how it's been every day. Hopefully, we score a lot of runs."
Baker has been forced to mix and match recently to get through the final outs of the game as he navigates injuries and a few struggling relievers to hold a lead. Kelley was placed on the DL on Friday with a lower back strain, although it is retroactive to Tuesday. And although Glover was eligible to return on Saturday, Baker said the plan is to have Glover throw a few more bullpen sessions before he returns.
Right-hander Jacob Turner pitched the final four innings on Wednesday night to secure a victory. Left-hander Enny Romero recorded his second career save on Thursday and right-hander Matt Albers locked down his first career save on Friday, snapping a streak of 102 games finished without recording a save (second most in MLB history). However, Albers has appeared in back-to-back games, so Baker would prefer to stay away from him on Saturday.
"People have written what they've wanted about our bullpen, but I think guys are stepping up lately and filling in roles that they shouldn't even have to be in," Kelley said. "And they're getting the job done and we're wining games."
Path back to the Majors
Joe Ross was sent to Triple-A Syracuse earlier this week for a throwing program to help monitor his mechanics after he struggled to begin the season. In his first start for Syracuse on Saturday, which keeps him in line with the Nationals' No. 5 spot in the rotation, Ross logged five innings, allowing eight hits and seven earned runs with two walks and four strikeouts on 88 pitches. When Ross will return to the Majors, however, is still unclear.
"I think he's in charge of that," pitching coach Mike Maddux said. "It'll be up to him, just a little mechanical tweak with him trying to help him out there. If we can get enough reps and touches where we repeat that, I think he's on the road to progress."
Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.