When Bryce Harper went down Saturday night during the Nationals' game against the San Francisco Giants, everyone in D.C. stopped breathing for a moment. This was true even for Nats GM Mike Rizzo.
"We've all felt it," Rizzo said. "You get that little pit in your stomach and it's the same feeling I had when [Wilson] Ramos went out."
The Nats' star right fielder was running out a ground ball to first base when his left leg hit a slippery base, causing his knee to hyperextend. Harper immediately went down and grabbed his knee in agony. He eventually had to be helped off the field.
The team has been plagued with injuries this season, from the bullpen to outfielders.
After the initial shock of seeing one of his best players go down with what could have been a season-ending injury, Rizzo told the Sports Junkies he went in 'GM mode.'
"You immediately go to GM mode. We immediately called our farm director, Doug Harris, and made arrangements to get Michael Taylor on a plane. Pull him out of the game in double A, get him on a plane and bring him here because we knew that we needed a player that next day. You know, you gotta change gears quick."
"Then I went down to see Harp in the clubhouse. When I saw him walking up the stairs from the dugout to the clubhouse, I was a little bit relieved. You never know with those injuries. Until you get the MRIs, until you see maybe a day or two later what transpired in there, you have to be cautiously optimistic, I guess that it wasn't an [Adam] Eaton type of thing where you knew immediately that he was gone for the season."
While everyone was waiting to see the severity of Harper's injury, Mike Rizzo and his team were making a game plan.
"You go into your evaluation mode. You look at the depth of your roster. What's next? You get the cabinet together, we were all in the GM box watching the game, so we were all together and kind of put our heads together to try to come up with a plan.
"If it's a light injury, if it's a year-ending injury, what do we do? What are the plans? And you know, you put plans together. If I'm not mistaken it was like the first inning or second inning or something like that. It was early in the game, so we had three hours to lament over it and think about what we're trying to do and put a game plan together kind of on the fly. We literally had Michael Taylor flying into D.C. later that evening so we kind of had to turn things around pretty quickly."
Now that the GM knows Harper's injury is a significant bone bruise, what steps does the team take to get him back on the diamond as soon as possible?
"If I had a time frame for you, I would give it to you. But there's no sense of putting on a time frame because the injury, the bone bruise, has to heal before he can do any type of rehab, stimulated rehab, baseball activities. He's not doing anything below the waist.
"He's doing his workout programs. He's doing all his weight work, all his cardio, all the things he has to do above the waist. But, we don't want him weight-bearing impacting with running and hitting and spinning, you know when you stick a swing and that type of thing, until he feels much much better and he's asymptomatic with the pain in his knee."
Rizzo said Harper will eventually progress to an AlterG treadmill, an anti-gravity treadmill that speeds up the rehabilitation process by supporting as much or as little body weight as needed.