Harper successfully shakes off ankle injury

Harper successfully shakes off ankle injury

WASHINGTON -- Davey Johnson believes opposing managers and pitchers are still making every effort to stay away from Bryce Harper, and now the rookie has a few other things to work through.

Harper, who endured some back trouble earlier in the season, fouled a ball off his left ankle in the first game of a day-night doubleheader Saturday was forced out of action. He came in to pinch-hit late in the nightcap and was back in the starting lineup Sunday morning for the series finale, finishing the game 1-for-5.

"It feels all right," Harper said Saturday night. "Once I get going, that's when it feels good. When I sit down, that's when it feels bad. Once I get going, get warmed up, I'm fine."

Harper, who had a pinch-hit single, stole a base and scored a run in Game 2 of the doubleheader, finished the weekend batting .269 this year. His average this weekend dipped as low as .268, which was his lowest mark since May 23.

Johnson maintains that opposing pitchers are exercising caution with Harper, starting the rookie with offspeed pitches before crowding him with fastballs to keep him off balance.

"He's a competitor," Johnson said. "They're pitching him tough, and he's trying to make something happen. Even when he gets ahead in the count, he's chasing a little bit. He's not making them come to him. And that's just being over-exuberant at the plate. Good hitters hit tough pitches. He's hitting them, but as he gets older, he'll be more selective."

Harper started the series finale hitting .258 this month after batting above .270 in the full months of June and May. After recording two hits in each of the first two games of this homestand, he's gone 2-for-17 in his last five.

He's still been productive, with with eight homers, 26 RBIs and 12 stolen bases, and he has been an asset defensively.

And Harper intends to continue playing through whatever ails him, particularly since the Nationals designated two outfielders (Xavier Nady and Rick Ankiel) for assignment this week and are already working with a short bench.

"Pain doesn't really get to me much," Harper said. "I think if [Johnson] would've left me in there [Saturday], I could've played, definitely. I've broken bones before, I've played with a sprained ankle. It takes a lot to take me out of the game."