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Bryce Harper using Playstation to rehab his thumb

Bryce Harper NationalsBryce Harper said earlier this week that he is not setting a timetable for his return from a thumb injury that has already kept him out more than a month. The Washington Nationals outfielder suffered a torn ligament while sliding into third base on April 25. His rehab following surgery is every adolescent kid’s dream.

On Thursday, Harper tweeted that he is planning to use video games as a form of rehab to regain motion in his thumb.

He wasn’t joking.

“(Harper) said, ‘I’m not going to rush back, I’m not going to do anything stupid,’” MASN’s Dan Kolko reported, via Dan Steinberg of DC Sports Bog. “He’s more just focused on progressing day to day. He’s still not able to catch balls because of that left thumb, still not able to hit, just kind of going through range-of-motion exercises and he’s going to start using some PlayStation to work that thumb back into gear as he tries to make progress.”

If playing professional baseball means making millions of dollars to play PS4 while working your way back from an injury, it’s an even sweeter gig than we thought. Hopefully Harper doesn’t play too much “Mortal Kombat.” I feel like that could lead to a setback.

Bryce Harper tweets thumbs up picture after thumb surgery

Bryce Harper thumb

Bryce Harper had surgery Tuesday to repair a torn ligament in his left thumb, and it looks like he’s in good spirits.

The Washington Nationals outfielder tweeted this picture Tuesday of him giving the thumbs up following thumb surgery.

Harper hurt his thumb diving head-first into third base following a bases-clearing triple on Friday. He joins Yasiel Puig and Josh Hamilton as star players who have hurt their thumbs on head-first dives into bases, though Puig’s injury thankfully wasn’t nearly as bad as Harper or Hamilton’s.

Photo: Twitter/Bryce Harper

Bryce Harper jogged out another ground ball (GIF)

Bryce Harper NationalsJust three days after he was benched for not hustling down the line on a weak ground ball, Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper chose to dog it down the line once again on Tuesday night. Unlike the first time, Harper actually proceeded through the first base bag instead of peeling off toward the dugout. He still gave far less than 100% effort.

Harper, who was dropped to sixth in the lineup by Nationals manager Matt Williams, hit a ground ball to second base and nonchalantly made his way to first. The way he ran out the grounder was hardly uncommon, but you would think he’d make it a point to hustle now that he has been so heavily scrutinized.

Suddenly, the 21-year-old Harper has gone from a player who plays so hard in the outfield he is described as reckless to somebody who doesn’t hustle down the line. Is the quad injury he has been nursing still bothering him? If you read the accusations a Washington Post writer threw around earlier this week, it will certainly make you scratch your head.

GIF via DC Sports Nexus
H/T For the Win

Bryce Harper accused of being concerned with preserving hitting streak

Bryce Harper NationalsWashington Nationals manager Matt Williams made an example out of Bryce Harper over the weekend by benching him after Harper chose not to hustle down the line on a ground ball back to the pitcher. Some felt that Williams should have given Harper leeway since he has been nursing a quad injury, but the manager apparently felt the injury was not serious enough to serve as an excuse.

On Monday morning, Tom Boswell of the Washington Post held his weekly chat with fans and was asked if he thought Harper deserved to be benched. He shared some interesting information that is worth a read.

Within the team it is certainly seen as appropriate.

The team was specifically told several days ago that the next guy who doesn’t run out a ball is coming out of the game. As to the quad, Harper missed a game on Weds that happened to be against Jose Fernandez. Other players always look for “coincidences.” The next game, he laid down a bunt against Wainwright, flew to first and looked fine. After he went 0-for-4, he threw his helmet. Turns out that 0-fer snapped a nine-game hitting streak. Not much of a streak. But teammates noticed. I assume his quad really did hurt him. But the Nats, over the last year, have certainly narrowed their eyes in looking at Harper’s motivations. The enormous benefits of the doubt — on whether he’s really more about the team or about himself or about both — that he got when he was 19 are not going to obtain  when you are in your third full year in the big leagues.

Remember, no manager would do this — it’s dramatic, unequivocal and got national attention — unless 1) the player involved had a history of similar behavior, 2) the organization supported the move and the manager knew that he would get full backing and 3) the team had been “refreshed” on the need to run balls out.

Harper is 0-for-4 in his career against Fernandez, who is one of the best young arms in the game. We know Harper has a tendency to get frustrated with himself, and that would not have been the first time he spiked his helmet after a rough at-bat. The assertion that the Nationals have “narrowed their eyes in looking at Harper’s motivations” is relatively serious.

If Boswell was passing along what he heard from other players, that could be even worse. Harper came into the league with a reputation of being a young kid who is cocky and arrogant, but I personally have always seen him as a team player who wants to win. I’ve been wrong before.

H/T Hardball Talk

Bryce Harper benched for not hustling on weak grounder (GIF)

Bryce Harper NationalsBryce Harper was benched by Washington Nationals manager Matt Williams Saturday for not running out a weak comebacker to the pitcher during the sixth inning of a 4-3 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals.

Harper waved at a good changeup that dove low and away and hit a dribbler back to Lance Lynn, who threw to first for the easy out. Harper just jogged about halfway down the line and peeled away without running all the way to first after he was thrown out. Williams responded by benching his left fielder and having Kevin Frandsen replace him.

Harper was 0-for-3 in the game and has been dealing with a quad injury, so you figure Williams might give him so leeway, but that was not the case.

“We made an agreement. He and I made an agreement, this team made an agreement, that when we play the game, we hustle at all times. That we play the game with intensity and the willingness to win,” Williams said after the game.

“For the sake of his teammates, he needs to play with aggression in the way he plays,” Williams said of Harper.

You can watch video of his postgame comments below:

Clearly Williams will not allow the quad injury to be an excuse. He felt Harper didn’t run it out because he was frustrated with his at-bat, not because he wasn’t well enough to. He probably sent the youngster a good message with the decision.

Oh, and DC Sports Bog shared this on Twitter – how great is this ironic Nats in-game magazine cover for Saturday’s game:

Forearm bash to Eye on Baseball

Bryce Harper clubs home run to upper deck (Video)

Bryce Harper home runBryce Harper was in a slump to start the season, but he broke out in a big way on Wednesday.

Harper took a 94 mph fastball from Miami Marlins starter Brad Hand in the bottom of the fourth and sent it deep to the upper deck at Nationals Park for a 3-run home run to put his Nats on the board. He added another hit in the game to give him six for the season and raise his average above .200.

Harper hit the home run so deep, the umpires actually had to confer to make sure the ball did not go foul. They reviewed the homer and upheld it.

Perhaps the person most excited about the home run was Harper’s girlfriend, Kayla Varner, who thinks this is the start of good things to come:

Bryce Harper admits he’s ‘pretty lost right now’ at plate

Bryce Harper NationalsBryce Harper received the day off Sunday to clear his head following a poor start to the season.

Harper, the 21-year-old Nats’ phenom, is only 3-for-21 this season (.143) with 1 walk and 10 strikeouts in five games.

“I mean, I’m pretty lost right now, actually,” Harper said Sunday via Nats Insider. “I’m trying to see where my swing’s at, watch video of where my hands are. I’m trying everything right now. We’ll see where I’m at tomorrow. Give pops a call and see what he says, also.”

Harper doesn’t have an extra base hit or RBI this year, which is a clear sign something is off; he’s a slugger and expected to put up big power numbers.

But Harper has slumped in the past and this is obviously a slump to the season. And if you’re looking for something to blame, it could be that his head hasn’t been right since this incident on the bases on opening day. Harper passed concussion tests, but it may have messed with him.

All in all, you like to see your hitters start off the season well. The general pattern for hitters who start off well is good start -> cool down/slump -> get hot again. But if you start off slowly, the pattern is often reversed, and it’s hard to put up great numbers. Harper will be fine this year, but he might not be spectacular.