The fence at Dodger Stadium that got in Bryce Harper's way might be in big trouble.
The Washington Nationals say Harper will visit noted orthopedist Dr. James Andrews on Monday because Harper's knee — which got banged up when Harper crashed into the right-field fence in L.A. nearly a month ago — isn't getting any better. Harper hasn't played since May 26, but he also hasn't been the same since he got lost chasing a fly ball against the Dodgers and violently injured himself May 7.
Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post logged the series of events leading to Harper seeing Andrews, whose often used a second opinion (or even a last resort) on serious joint injuries:
Harper timeline: Hit wall 5/13. Start 5/15. Bench 5/18. Return 5/20. "Day to day" 5/26. DL 6/2. James Andrews 6/10. wapo.st/192AMar
— Adam Kilgore (@AdamKilgoreWP) June 6, 2013
The swelling and pain has been too much for Harper, who says he doesn't want to play again until he is able to play all of the time. So, he isn't a bulletproof 20-year-old after all. That's the lesson Harper should, and probably will, take from his misadventure in right field. Being overzealous on defense is costing him time on the field — and that's unacceptable to him.
In the meantime, it's troubling for Nats manager Davey Johnson that a diagnosis of "bursitis" has now led to Andrews, who repaired the knee of NFL quarterback Robert Griffin III after his season ended:
“Everybody says it’s bursitis,” Johnson said. “I thought normally you usually take anti-inflammatory and kind of calm it down. But it’s kind of been lingering. When he runs, it swells up. He did some light jogging in the pool, and it swelled up. We’re concerned.”
Harper tested his knee by running and hitting in Baltimore on May 30, three days following the aggravation. He couldn’t run at full speed, and Johnson caught him limping afterward and the following day when he walked off the team plane in Atlanta. The Nationals have said that Harper’s knee injury isn’t structural and once the swelling lessened he could return to the field.
Johnson said there wasn’t enough fluid in the bursa sac to be drained. Surgery to remove the troublesome sac is typically the last resort, Johnson said, and if Harper underwent that procedure he would be out at least another two to three weeks.
That's not good, with the Nats hovering around .500 and losing time every day to catch the Atlanta Braves in the NL East. But, as the Nats showed a season ago with pitcher Stephen Strasburg, more than just one season is at stake with a talent such as Harper, who figures to be a pillar of the franchise for a long time to come.
Andrews also famously installed the plastic and titanium hip for Bo Jackson. Not to say that Harper needs an artificial knee — but he's definitely going to the right doctor. He's going to be OK. Eventually.