Nationals’ Harper out indefinitely with bone bruise in knee

WASHINGTON — The news is not as bad as it looked for Washington Nationals star Bryce Harper about 12 hours after he was injured in the bottom of the first inning Saturday night against the San Francisco Giants.

The right fielder and 2015 National League MVP has a bone bruise in his left knee but no ligament damage, general manager Mike Rizzo told reporters at Nationals Park on Sunday morning. The Nationals hope he can return at some point this season.

“We dodged a bullet here,” said Rizzo, who emphasized the Nationals will be cautious in Harper’s recovery process. “We’re optimistic we’ll see him this season.”

Harper collapsed in a heap after he went flying through the air after his spike slipped on a wet first base bag while trying to beat out a groundball Saturday in a game that began three hours and one minute late due to a rain delay.

Harper was put on the 10-day disabled list Sunday and outfielder Michael A. Taylor, who played both games of a doubleheader Saturday in Hartford, Conn., was recalled from his minor league rehab assignment with the Double-A Harrisburg Senators of the Eastern League. Taylor is hitting .278 with 12 homers in 72 games this year for Washington.

Rookie Andrew Stevenson (.111) started in center field in the first game Sunday and Brian Goodwin (.247, 13 homers), who had been playing center in place of Taylor, started in right against the Giants. Adam Lind (.317, nine homers) started in left field for Washington in the first game with Taylor not in the lineup.

Harper left the game in the last of the first inning Saturday after his left foot slipped on the first base bag as he tried to beat out a groundball to first baseman Ryder Jones.

“It’s just one of those freak plays where you kind of thought there would be a collision and there wasn’t and that might be part of it too, maybe he was trying to dodge me and (pitcher Jeff) Samardzija,” Jones told reporters.

On the play Jones fielded the ball and beat Harper to the bag as Samardzija raced over to cover the bag just in case. Harper fell to the ground and held his left knee for several minutes. He was helped off the field and did not put any weight on his left leg as athletic trainer Paul Lessard and hitting coach Rick Schu helped him to the clubhouse.

Harper was walking on his own power in the Washington clubhouse at about 1:45 a.m. Sunday.

Harper is hitting .326 with 29 homers and 89 RBIs in 106 games and 402 at-bats for the first-place Nationals (69-45), who entered Sunday 14 1/2 games ahead of the second-place Miami Marlins in the National League East.

The Nationals lost center fielder Adam Eaton for the season in late April when he also hit the bag in a strange way at first base at home.

There was fear Harper could be lost for the season but it appears Harper could be ready in time for the end of regular-season play or at least the playoffs. If the Nationals hold onto the second-best record in the National League, they would open up postseason play at home Friday, Oct. 6. The regular-season is slated to end Oct. 1.

“We know he hyperextended it when he slipped going across the bag. He’s going to get an MRI,” Washington manager Dusty Baker said after the Saturday night game. “We’re just hoping for the best.”

Baker did not meet with the media before the first of a day-night doubleheader Sunday with the Giants.

Catcher Pedro Severino was added to the Washington roster as the 26th man for the Sunday doubleheader. The Giants called up infielder Orlando Calixte from Triple-A Sacramento as their 26th man for the twinbill.

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