Harper may not be ready for Hagerstown opener

Harper may not be ready for Hagerstown opener
March 22, 2011, 2:12 pm
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Tuesday, March 22, 2011, 10:12 a.m.

By Mark Zuckerman
Nationals Insider


VIERA, Fla. -- Bryce Harper suffered what the Washington Nationals are terming a "medium sprain" of his left ankle on Monday, an injury that's not considered serious but could prevent the top prospect from playing in Class A Hagerstown's season opener.

Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said Tuesday that it's too soon to know a timetable for Harper's return.

"We'll know more today when we see him and how he responded to the first day of treatment," Rizzo said.

Harper got hurt trying to beat out a grounder during Monday morning's minor-league intrasquad game, landing awkwardly on first base and falling to the ground. He was taken off the field on a cart.

X-rays taken on Harper's ankle came back negative, and his status is officially "day-to-day." Rizzo, though, said the sprain is a step up from a "mild" one and compared it to the ankle sprain suffered by fellow outfielder Corey Brown. Brown injured himself sliding into the plate on March 1 and had yet to appear in another game when he was sent to minor-league camp 2 12 weeks later.

Harper has 2 12 weeks to recover in time for Hagerstown's April 7 opener in Rome, Ga. His home debut isn't scheduled until April 15.

Meanwhile, Rizzo said the three-way competition for the starting center fielder's job between Nyjer Morgan, Rick Ankiel and Roger Bernadina remains wide-open entering the final week of spring training.

"I like the competition," the GM said. "I think we've got capable candidates out there, and I'm going to be comfortable with whoever we choose out there. ... They all bring a different skill-set to the position. But I do think it's still an open competition."

After a 1-for-16 start at the plate, Morgan has 10 hits in his last 31 at-bats and has posted a .447 on-base percentage during that span. Ankiel is hitting just .182 this spring but has three homers and nine RBI in 15 games. Bernadina is hitting .267 with one homer, seven RBI and a .340 on-base percentage.

A decision doesn't have to be made until the final day of camp, but Rizzo suggested it's unlikely all three players will make the Opening Day roster.

"It'll be difficult to do that," he said.

Mark Zuckerman also blogs about the Nationals at natsinsider.com. Contact him at mzuckerman@comcastsportsnet.com.