By Sam Bush

Bryce Harper sat out yesterday’s Phils-Cards game with lower back tightness and could play today.

“I just don’t want to get in a situation where if he goes out and plays, he makes it worse,” Phillies manager Joe Girardi said after a 9-4 loss to St. Louis. “We’ve got a long season.”

Harper slid headfirst into second base on a double Friday night, which could have contributed to his back problem.

“I can tell you from experience,” Girardi said, “I’ve worked and worked and worked and I still work and work and work and every once in a while you just kind of feel a little cranky. But I was able to play whole seasons, and every once in a while I would just need a day. I don’t think he’s any different than the regular population.”

Harper had an MRI in the offseason after he had back problems late last season he says it revealed no structural damage, but an issue with the QL (quadratus lumborum) muscle.

“When I talked to the doctor about it, he was kind of just, you know, ‘You have no herniation, your spine is great, your discs look amazing,’” Harper said then. “I had something going on with my QL attaching to my oblique area. So when I threw or when I hit or when I stretched it would pull, and then when I hit it would pull as well. So once we figured that out and kind of got the MRI done with it and got everything done, got everything flushed out of there, I was good. But all my discs, I have no herniation or anything like that.

“So this is something where, hopefully if I keep working out, do what I need to, keep staying on top of my program and things like that throughout the whole year, then it might maybe be a little bit sore, but it won’t affect me like it would last year. So I don’t think this is a long term thing. Knock on wood.”

Harper had a 1.147 OPS in 21 games last season before the back started to bother him on Aug. 21. He had an .860 OPS the rest of the way. The discomfort got so bad at one point that he removed himself from a Sept. 20 game. He served as the Phillies’ designated hitter in five of his final seven games.

To help his back this winter, Harper started to hit a month later than normal (from Jan. 1 to Feb. 1).

Harper this season is batting .238 with two home runs, six RBIs and an .825 OPS in 13 games.

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