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Injury Woes Piling Up for Nationals

After a stint on the DL with a swollen knee, Bryce Harper will meet with Dr. James Andrews on Monday.

After a stint on the DL with a swollen knee, Bryce Harper will meet with Dr. James Andrews on Monday.

Things continue to go from bad to worse for the Washington Nationals.

After placing starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg on the DL on Wednesday, reports surfaced on Thursday that outfielder Bryce Harper may not be returning as soon as previously thought.

Harper is currently out with swelling on his left knee, thought to have been caused by a series of collisions with the outfield wall.

The 20-year-old first collided with a fence trying to prevent a homerun in Atlanta back on April 30, the impact of which left him bruised and batted. Harper has subsequently confided to the Washington Post that he probably should have been placed on the DL back then.

On May 13, Harper suffered a second outfield mishap, this time crashing into the wall at Dodger Stadium. The violent collision saw him exit the game bloodied and required 11 stitches in his chin. He missed the following game against the Los Angeles Dodgers as well as two against the San Diego Padres later that week.

For the most part Harper remained on manager Davey Johnson’s lineup card. That was until May 26.

Harper aggravated the injury in a Sunday afternoon game against the Philadelphia Phillies, twice sliding headfirst to reach base and once tipping a foul ball off his knee. He was pulled for a pinch runner and hasn’t been on the diamond since.

Harper hasn't seen action since May 26.

Harper hasn’t seen action since May 26.

Harper was placed on the 15-Day DL on June 1, retroactive to May 27.

The original prognosis was that there was no structural damage and that the bursitis would be relieved through rest. One week on and Harper is reported to have said that the swelling “hasn’t gone down at all.”

Johnson told the Post: “I thought normally you take an 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.”

The next port of call will be a trip to renowned orthopedic surgeon, Dr. James Andrews, on Monday.

Andrews has of course examined and operated on a who’s who list of sports stars, including Michael Jordan, Adrian Peterson, Roger Clemens and, most recently, Robert Griffin III.

Andrews will examine Harpers knee and suggest which measures should be taken next.

If all goes well, and if the swelling rescinds between now and then, Harper could return to the lineup as soon as Tuesday. But the ‘if’ comes with a big asterisk, as the Nationals are only too well aware.

Suffering from strained muscles in his lower back, Stephen Strasburg was added to the DL on Wednesday.

Suffering from strained muscles in his lower back, Stephen Strasburg was added to the DL on Wednesday.

Davey and the front office added Stephen Strasburg’s name to the DL on Wednesday, retroactive to May 31. The pitcher is currently suffering from a strained muscle in his lower back.

Strasburg pitched eight innings in the same game Harper was removed from play, but only managed two innings against the Atlanta Braves last Friday. The news is a blow to the franchise that famously took extra care with their star pitcher last season after he returned from Tommy John surgery, despite a common chorus of criticism for doing so.

Harper and Strasburg are joined on the DL by starting pitcher Ross Detwiler (oblique), second baseman Danny Espinosa (wrist), catcher Wilson Ramos (hamstring), and pitchers Christian Garcia (forearm), Ryan Mattheus (hand).

Bookmakers began the season with high expectations of the Nationals but this long list of injuries, as well as some poor play have seen odds slipping away.

On opening day, Washington had 4/5 odds to win the NL East and 3/1 odds to take the National League pennant. Those numbers made the Nationals the league favorite. In addition, only the Toronto Blue Jays (13/2) had shorter odds to win the World Series than Washington’s 7/1.

According to Bovada, Washington is currently 2/1 to win the NL East, putting the side behind the Atlanta (1/3).

The side is 6/1 to win the National League, tied for fourth place with the San Francisco Giants, behind Atlanta (4/1), the St. Louis Cardinals (4/1) and Cincinnati Reds (5/1).

Finally, Washington is considered 12/1 to win the World Series, good enough for a share of fifth place with Cincinnati and San Francisco while trailing the Detroit Tigers (13/2), Atlanta (8/1), the Texas Rangers (17/2) and St. Louis (8/1).

Although his numbers have not been as good as last season, Harper’s prolonged absence could have a huge impact on the Nationals’ championship aspirations, as could that of the starting pitching tandem of Strasburg and Detwiler.

* * * * *

Gio Gonzalez is expected to start tonight, but Mother Nature may have other ideas.

Gio Gonzalez is expected to start tonight, but Mother Nature may have other ideas.

The Nationals are scheduled to face the Minnesota Twins in the first of a three-game series Friday night (7:05 p.m. ET).

Gio Gonzalez (3-3, 3.64 ERA) is due to pitch for the Nationals, while Kevin Correia (5-4, 4.09 ERA) is tabbed to take the mound for the Twins. Gonzalez was one of the 20 players named in the Biogenesis report earlier this week, although ESPN reports that sources state he received only ‘legal substances’.

The Nationals are 6-3 in interleague play this season, having recorded series wins over the Chicago White Sox (3-0) and Detroit Tigers (2-0) in the capital. Washington split a pair of games at Nationals Park with the Baltimore Orioles at the end of last month before losing both games at Camden Yards.

Minnesota Twins vs. Washington Nationals odds for 6/7/13 are available now.

Bettors may have to wait this one out though. The Nationals’ game against the New York Mets on Thursday night was postponed after heavy rain from Tropical Storm Andrea fell continuously on the city. The forecast for Friday looks to be much the same.

Thursday night’s game will be made up on Friday, July 26 (1:35 p.m. ET) as part of a day-night doubleheader.

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