Bryce Harper Must Do More to Prevent Injury in His Return to Nationals

Richard Langford@@noontide34Correspondent IJuly 1, 2013

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 04:  Bryce Harper #34 of the Washington Nationals watches play from the dugout during a game against the New York Mets at Nationals Park on June 4, 2013 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

I'm a big fan of the intensity with which Bryce Harper plays the game of baseball. However, he still has to be smart about putting himself in harm's way. He is far too valuable to the Nationals not to. 

This topic, of course, is relevant at the moment because Harper is set to make his return to the field. 

The Nationals happily tweeted out that bit of news: 

Harper had been out of action since May 26 with a knee injury. The 20-year-old originally tweaked his knee on this play on May 13: 

Initially, he missed two games, but his knee did not improve, and that led to his lengthy absence. 

The play on which Harper was originally injured is typical of Harper's style. He knows only one speed, and that is all-out. 

Harper should be commended for this. That is the attitude and intensity most fans want from players in all sports. However, the young slugger has to find some kind of balance on the field that improves his chances of staying healthy. 

This kind of discussion is more typically reserved for football, and one that Washington fans have become all too aware of, as Robert Griffin returns from his knee injury. In this baseball case, though, it most definitely applies. 

Obviously, this task is easier said than done. Take the play on which Harper was originally injured. He was just chasing a fly ball and the wall came up on him faster than he expected. No one wants Harper to chase fly balls with less intensity. 

However, he can make it a habit to be more aware of his surroundings, and that includes the game setting.

In an early-season game, chasing a fly ball into the wall for one out is not worth the risk of the Nationals possibly losing Harper for an extended period of time. The story would be a little different if it was Game 7 of the World Series. 

Baseball offers a long and grueling 162 game season. While every run and game counts, the big picture must always be kept in mind. 

Given the choice between possibly making an out but crashing violently into something, or watching the ball bounce off the wall, Harper has to let the ball hit the fence once in a while and instead hit the relay man to try and limit the hitter to a single. 

Harper is the kind of bat who can make up a run at any time with just one swing. That is something the offensively starved Nationals can't do without, but they'll always have a chance to limit the damage caused by a deep hit to the outfield.