After watching his team beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 4-1 on Friday night with his best player out of the lineup, Matt Williams was pleased to receive a text message from Bryce Harper the following morning.
It simply said: “I’m good to go.”
Despite writhing in pain after falling to the ground and leaving Thursday night’s game with a hamstring strain, Harper has returned to the Nationals lineup. He may have to deal with some discomfort for the time being, but Harper is ready to get back on the field.
“I’ve played through pain the last two years sometimes. It feels okay. Just gonna get in there and play for the team,” he said.
Harper tested out his hamstring before Saturday’s game by taking flyballs in right field at Nationals Park. He then met with manager Matt Williams and a member of the team’s training staff before heading into the clubhouse, possibly to take batting practice in the indoor cage. He did not participate in batting practice with teammates on the field.
Before the game, Harper repeated the phrase “I’m in the game” several times, in a conversation with reporters reminiscent of Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch or Patriots coach Bill Belichick.
“Nothing has changed. I’m in the game today, that’s what we’re doing,” he said.
Harper has been one of the best players in baseball this season with a .344 average, 22 home runs and 53 RBI in 66 games. He hurt his hamstring on a throw attempt in the sixth inning of Thursday night’s loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. The field was slippery because of rain and his knee gave out when he was planting to throw.
Harper is back playing right field and hitting cleanup for the Nationals.