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.
Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic reports that the Pirates have decided to convert outfielder JB Shuck into a two-way player. Recent comments relayed from the club’s director of player development, Larry Broadway, indicated that the outfielder would be coached in developing his pitching skills while working at Triple-A Indianapolis.
Per Broadway, the change would be enacted to help the veteran outfielder develop some much-needed versatility in the majors, where he’s only ever been limited to outfield and DH responsibilities. Well, except for the two games in which he pitched an inning of relief: once, against the Nationals in a blowout 11-4 loss in 2016, then in a similarly painful loss to the Diamondbacks this past April. During the latter outing, he finished the game with a 13-pitch ninth inning after allowing just one hit and one walk.
Add to that one minor-league outing in 2012, and the 31-year-old Shuck has pitched just three times over the course of his 12-season career in pro ball. While he has three years of experience on the mound from his college days, he’ll need quite a bit of preparation to handle the kind of workload expected from a two-way outfielder/reliever: 20+ innings pitched over a season and 20+ games played as a designated hitter or position player.
Still, his lack of experience doesn’t seem to faze Broadway, at least not this early in the process. There’s no word yet on how soon Shuck would be expected to debut his new skillset on a major-league level.