Bryce Harper. Photo Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia Phillies star Bryce Harper left Thursday’s game against the Washington Nationals early with back issues.

Harper was in Philadelphia’s starting lineup on Thursday, hitting third and playing first base. He came to the plate twice, flying in his first plate appearance and walking in his second. After the walk in the bottom of the third inning, Harper returned to the field for the top of the fourth. But when the Phillies took the field in the top of the fifth inning, Harper wasn’t out there. Alec Bohm moved from third base to first, replacing Harper in the field. Rodolfo Castro went to third and took Harper’s spot in the lineup.

Shortly thereafter, Todd Zolecki of tweeted that “Bryce Harper left the game with a mid-back spasm. He is undergoing further evaluation.”

The good news for the Phillies is that they can afford to be patient. They entered Thursday’s game at 63-52, one game ahead of the San Francisco Giants for the top Wild Card spot in the National League. They’re also four games clear of the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds, who are currently the first two teams out of the National League playoff picture.

But there’s also bad news. Injuries have unfortunately been a large part of Harper’s career. He’s only reached 150 games played in a season three times in his career. The most recent was 2019, his first year with the Phillies (though Harper did play 57 of 60 games in the COVID-shortened 2020 season). He missed a significant portion of this season, recovering from Tommy John surgery.

As far as this injury goes, the news could certainly be worse. But given Harper’s injury history, it’d be hard to blame the Phillies and their fans for being nervous.

[Todd Zolecki]

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