Bryce Harper was out of the Nationals' lineup on Friday for their series-opener against the Pittsburgh Pirates, as he rests his sore left hamstring that was injured during the sixth inning of Thursday night's loss to the Tampa Bay Rays.
The Nationals are calling the injury a mild left hamstring strain, but they will not know the full extent of his diagnosis for another day or so. Harper is expected to take light swings in the batting cage and will cautiously test the hamstring through the weekend.
"He's sore and hasn't done a whole lot today," manager Matt Williams said. "He's off for today and we'll evaluate after today after he's done all of his treatment and see what we have for tomorrow."
Harper said on Thursday night he does not believe the injury is serious, though it was a scary moment for the right fielder. Harper had surgery on his left knee following the 2013 season to remove a bursa sac that had plagued him for most of the summer. Given the history, he was admittedly worried when the play first happened, though he felt more encouraged after meeting with team doctors.
Williams was asked if Harper's newest injury has anything to do with his knee and he avoided specifics:
"Given what's gone on this year and the intricacies of which things have happened, we're getting hammered about it anyway so we're not going to go there. What we'll do right now is say that he's sore. We'll evaluate it every day and we'll take the appropriate steps necessary to make sure that he's 100 percent ready to go when he is ready to go."
Playing in Harper's place on Friday night was 30-year-old rookie Clint Robinson, who spoke before Friday's game about filling in for the young superstar.
"He's the first-half MVP of the National League, I think. For him to be out, we can't really replace a guy like that," Robinson explained.
"I'm not Bryce Harper, nobody is. For anybody to expect me to go out there and do what he does, it's kind of a lofty goal. I'm just going to go out there and do what I always do, whether I'm in the four-hole or in the nine-hole. I'm just going to go up there and put together good at-bats and play good defense. That's all I can concentrate on."
Williams spoke on Thursday night about how other players on the roster will need to step up if Harper is out for an extend period of time. Robinson echoed that sentiment on Friday.
"We definitely have the talent to win ballgames. There's a lot of established guys that are still in the lineup and healthy. We've got to find a way to get it done," he said.
"Baseball, this is the major leagues. This isn't Little League. We've gotta go out there and overcome injuries and just do the best you can and pull them out any way you can."
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle was asked about Harper's absence before Friday's game and had an interesting comparison to offer.
"It's like our lineup without having McCutchen. That doesn't mean the lineup without him can't beat you or it can't score runs. It's just different," he said. "They've had to deal with more than their fair share of injuries and they're still competing."
After battling significant injuries each of the last two seasons, Harper had made it through the 2 1/2 months of this campaign missing only two games (each time after getting hit by a pitch). Healthy for the first time in a long time, he has produced huge offensive numbers, leaving Thursday’s game with 22 homers, 53 RBI, a .344 batting average and MLB-leading .476 on-base percentage, .720 slugging percentage and 1.197 OPS.