Nationals deny report that Bryce Harper has been playing hurt for months

Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper was the NL MVP and probably the best all-around player in baseball last season. This year, he stormed out the gate to a .328/.430/.844 clip through 19 games. He was still hitting .264/.453/.574 through May 21, but has pretty well bottomed out since. In 63 games since, Harper has hit .216/.322/.361. Yes, a slugging percentage below .400 for a guy who slugged .649 last season.

What's wrong with him? Is he hurt? SI.com's Tom Verducci says so.

The Washington Nationals right fielder and 2015 National League MVP has been playing through a right shoulder injury for the past two months, according to a source close to the team.

The injury affects the area at the top and back of his shoulder and at the base of his neck. Harper has been receiving treatment for the injury, the source said, including cupping therapy and Active Release Technique.

If cupping therapy sounds familiar to you, you've probably been watching the most decorated Olympian in history have a great week in Rio.

Of course, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo says that is false.

Harper hasn't played since Saturday due to a stiff neck and that also keeps him out of the lineup Friday night.

The neck and the shoulder are close, obviously, but different things. The Nats insist Harper just got the neck injury recently and wasn't hampered before, as that's what Harper himself told them. Of course, athletes lie, especially uber-competitive types with high levels of confidence.

So it's hard to know the real truth here.

What we do know is that Harper isn't heading to the disabled list, so this isn't an injury the club deems serious.

The Nationals entered Friday with a 7 1/2-game lead in the NL East. If they get last year's version of Bryce Harper back at any point, that'll obviously provide a major boost for a team that thus far hasn't needed it.

CBS Sports Writer

Matt Snyder has been a baseball writer with CBS Sports since 2011. A member of the BBWAA, he's now covered the last six World Series beginning with the epic 2011 Fall Classic. The former Indiana University... Full Bio

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