No plans to DL Harper after clean MRI

Baker says All-Star available to PH, prefers to keep him on bench

No plans to DL Harper after clean MRI

WASHINGTON -- Bryce Harper (stiff neck) was out of the Nationals' starting lineup for the fifth straight game on Saturday, making a full week since he last played.

Washington general manager Mike Rizzo said an MRI Harper underwent on Saturday came up clean and that the team has no plans to place the reigning MVP on the disabled list.

Manager Dusty Baker said although Harper remains available to pinch-hit, he's hesitant to play him, just in case the Nationals choose to put him on the disabled list retroactively. As of now, the team could DL Harper retroactive to Sunday, but if he were to appear in a game that clock would reset.

Rizzo said the decision to keep Harper off the disabled list comes down to getting him back on the field as soon as possible.

"If he can play tonight, I want him to play tonight. If he can play tomorrow, I want him to play tomorrow," Rizzo said.

A day after Rizzo vehemently denied a report that Harper was battling a right shoulder issue, Baker reiterated that the injury is confined to his neck.

"It's not his arm," Baker said. "If it was, I would have told you by now. It is indeed a spasm in his neck."

Harper's neck first became a problem last Saturday, when he was removed after six innings in a loss to the Giants. Baker and Harper initially said the injury would last only a couple days, but the outfielder has not played since.

Worth noting

• Pitcher Joe Ross, who has been out since July 2 due to right shoulder inflammation, threw long toss on Saturday. Rizzo called that "a step in right direction" and said the right-hander would ease into a throwing program. Ross went on a rehab assignment in late July, but he was forced to shut that down when his shoulder continued to feel sore.

• First baseman Ryan Zimmerman (left wrist contusion) and catcher Jose Lobaton (left elbow tendonitis) could both go on rehab assignments soon, Rizzo said. Both players will remain with the Major League team on Saturday and Sunday before being evaluated, Rizzo said.

Alex Putterman is a reporter for MLB.com based in Washington. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.