Uh-oh: Bryce Harper dealing with back issue again


A day after rocketing balls all over Citizens Bank Park, Bryce Harper was not in the Phillies' lineup for Saturday's game against the St. Louis Cardinals.

According to the Phillies, Harper was held out as a precaution after awakening Saturday with lower back stiffness. He is considered day to day. 

Matt Joyce started in right field in place of Harper against St. Louis lefty Kwang Hyun Kim.

Harper had a two-run double in Friday night's 9-2 win over the Cardinals. He also drove two balls to the warning track that would have been homers if it weren't for the stiff wind blowing in from center field. The two balls, to right-center and left-center, came off the bat at 109 and 108 miles per hour, respectively.

After the game, Harper talked about how he was eager to play Saturday and build on the momentum of the victory.

Harper's absence Saturday is a bit of a red flag because he was plagued by lower back soreness over the final month of last season and his performance, as well as the team's, suffered. The sore back bothered Harper when he threw the baseball and he served as the designated hitter in five of the Phillies' final seven games.

Manager Joe Girardi did not meet with reporters before Saturday's game, standard practice when there's a day game.

Girardi did speak with radio broadcaster Scott Franzke on the pregame show.

"His back is a little sore from yesterday," Girardi said of Harper. "Probably the sliding headfirst is my guess but you never know exactly where it comes from. He wakes up today and he’s sore. Once you have some back issues, you’re always a little bit concerned about it. Hopefully it is short-term."

Girardi said he believed the issue was similar to what Harper experienced late last season.

"It’s something that we have to watch and stay on top of," Girardi said. "I told him, ‘Look, let’s get this right. Let’s not try to fight through this because we have such a long season. Last season was a sprint. This season is a marathon and we want you feeling good when you’re out there.'”

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