UPDATE: Feel free to exhale, Nats fans. According to Mark Zuckerman of CSNWashington.com, tests on Harper’s ankle revealed a contusion and not a break. He’s sitting out the nightcap of today’s doubleheader against the Braves.
2:21 PM: Word from the Nationals is that Harper is dealing with left ankle soreness. His exit from today’s game was considered precautionary.
2:05 PM: According to Mark Zuckerman of CSNWashington.com, Bryce Harper left the first game of this afternoon’s doubleheader against the Braves after fouling a ball off his left ankle/foot on a bunt attempt.
Harper suffered the injury in the bottom of the first inning. He struck out swinging to finish the at-bat and remained in the game initially, but Roger Bernadina replaced him in center field to begin the top of the third inning. The severity of the injury isn’t yet known, but it’s ill-timed for the Nationals, who have designated outfielders Rick Ankiel and Xavier Nady for assignment in recent days.
Harper, 19, is batting .268/.339/.440 with eight home runs, 26 RBI, 11 stolen bases and a .779 OPS in 72 games played during his rookie season.
The Arizona Fall League competition came to a close on Saturday, concluding with the Peoria Javelinas’ 8-2 win over the Mesa Solar Sox for the championship title. No one stood out more than Braves’ no. 1 prospect Ronald Acuna, who took home honors as the AFL MVP after slashing .325/.414/.639 with a league-leading seven home runs and second-best 1.053 OPS in 83 at-bats.
At just 19 years old, Acuna is the youngest prospect to receive the award. He made his presence felt even before he suited up for the AFL, earning promotions to the Braves’ Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinnett and batting a remarkable .325/.374/.522 with 21 home runs across three levels in 2017.
Acuna was also a major factor in the Javelinas’ win on Saturday, but he wasn’t the first to make some noise. The Solar Sox got to right-hander T.J. Zeuch in the first inning, leading off with three singles and a run-scoring sac fly to get a 2-0 edge over the Javelinas. It was the only lead they’d get all afternoon and it lasted just two innings. Luis Urias snapped the shutout with a sac fly in the bottom of the second inning, and the Javelinas took the lead with a game-tying RBI single from Acuna and two-run base hit from Braves’ no. 16 prospect Alex Jackson in the third.
From then on, it was smooth sailing for Peoria. Andrew Case, Andres Munoz and Art Warren combined for 3 1/3 scoreless innings in relief, while the offense tacked on another handful of runs with Acuna’s fourth-inning two-RBI single and Michael Chavis’ eighth-inning triple. With runners at the corners and one out, the Solar Sox lifted right-hander Dakota Bacus for fellow righty Nolan Blackwood. Even he was flummoxed by Acuna, however, who grabbed hold of the first pitch he saw and returned another sac fly to center field for the Javelinas’ eighth and final run of the game.
Only 131 days left until Opening Day, folks.