VIERA, Fla. -- Bryce Harper will likely miss the Nationals' final two Grapefruit League games while letting his swollen left thumb heal, but the 20-year-old outfielder hopes to play Friday against the Yankees in Washington in advance of Opening Day on Monday.
Harper has been dealing with the issue since Friday, when he first was jammed by a pitch from Tigers left-hander Drew Smyly. He took one day off, returned to the lineup Sunday and continued a torrid streak at the plate in which he recorded nine consecutive base hits to raise his spring training batting average to .476.
But Harper again was jammed on a pitch from Marlins right-hander Henderson Alvarez during yesterday's game in Jupiter and was in considerable pain, though he was in better shape this morning.
"When I woke up this morning, it felt fine," he said. "Yesterday, it kind of got me a little. I thought it was going to be a lot worse when I woke up this morning. It wasn't. If I was in the lineup today, I could play."
The Nationals won't take any chances with their star left fielder. Harper was held out of batting practice today and won't play against the Braves. He probably won't play tomorrow against the Mets, either.
If all goes well, Harper hopes to get at least a couple of at-bats in Friday's exhibition finale against the Yankees at Nationals Park. He would then have two more days to rest before Monday's season opener against Miami.
"I've got like 70 ABs, so it doesn't really matter," he said. "Just going through the reps is huge, definitely. Playing Friday would be good, then hitting on Saturday and Sunday, then it's Opening Day. If I can get BP in there and do the other side of things, that's good."
Harper insisted he doesn't expect this issue to linger into the regular season.
"I don't see it like that, I really don't," he said. "It doesn't seem to be that bad playing. Hopefully it doesn't."
Harper may have to make one adjustment to his routine. He may start wearing a foam ring around the thumb, one that helps absorb shock, despite the awkwardness of it.
"I mean, it feels pretty uncomfortable, but I'm going to have to get used to it," he said. "I don't want to get jammed up and keep having to do it. We'll see what happens, see how it feels and go from there."