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Harper sits out again, Nats hopeful of Friday return

MLB.com

PHILADELPHIA -- Bryce Harper was out of the Nationals' lineup for the second consecutive game on Wednesday, a 7-2 Nationals win, although he did take batting practice in the indoor batting cage prior to the game.

The Nationals wanted to exercise caution, especially with an off-day on Thursday to give the bruise on Harper's right knee time to heal. Manager Dusty Baker hopes Harper can return to the lineup Friday in Cincinnati.

Full Game Coverage

PHILADELPHIA -- Bryce Harper was out of the Nationals' lineup for the second consecutive game on Wednesday, a 7-2 Nationals win, although he did take batting practice in the indoor batting cage prior to the game.

The Nationals wanted to exercise caution, especially with an off-day on Thursday to give the bruise on Harper's right knee time to heal. Manager Dusty Baker hopes Harper can return to the lineup Friday in Cincinnati.

Full Game Coverage

"I expect to, but I don't know," Baker said. "That day off is coming right on time for him, and for us. I looked at Harp, he's chomping at the bit. I know how it is and then you're not playing. It makes for a very boring day."

Harper left in the seventh inning of Monday night's game after being struck in the knee by a pitch from Jeremy Hellickson. Harper's knee was still sore Wednesday and Baker said it likely will be for a few days, but did not believe Harper would need to undergo any MRIs or further tests.

"They looked at it structurally and said it seems sound," Baker said. "But we'll just have to see

"He's kept it elevated quite a bit and they are really, really treating him and taking care of him."

Worth noting

• Nationals reliever Matt Belisle, who is on the disabled list with a strained right calf, allowed one run in two innings during his latest Minor League rehab outing on Tuesday night.

"That was one of the tests that he had to clear, multiple innings and back-to-back days," Baker said. "We'll make an evaluation from there but he seems like he's, barring any setbacks, he seems like he's on the way."

Which Nationals reliever will be sent to the Minors to make room for Belisle might not be an easy decision. Washington's bullpen has posted an MLB-best 1.61 ERA since May 9. Left-hander Sammy Solis was promoted when Belisle landed on the DL and has performed well in his role. In 12 appearances he owns a 1.93 ERA with 14 strikeouts.

"It's always tough when you have a good staff," Baker said. "We'll make that decision when we get there. It's never an easy decision but it's something that you have to make sooner or later."

Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Washington Nationals, Bryce Harper