Washington Nationals left fielder Bryce Harper is fully focused on putting his injury-plagued 2013 season behind him.
He spent most of 2013 battling various ailments and admitted he was not fully healthy for much of the season. Harper has already undergone offseason surgery to repair the bursa in his left knee, which he injured by crashing into the right-field scoreboard at Dodger Stadium May 13.
That injury forced him to spend more than a month on the disabled list, missing the team's games from May 27-June 30. Even when he returned, he didn't appear to be the same player he had been before the injury. He spent much of this offseason making sure the knee was fully healed, he said.
"It's going real well right now," Harper said. "I'm going to rehab three times a week, day and night. I'm trying to get back to full strength. I'll try to go through spring training 100 percent and then when the season starts, I'll see where I'm at."
Adding to Harper's frustration with the injury, he expressed disappointment in the Nationals' inability to make the 2013 playoffs. Despite a late push, Washington finished 86-76, 10 games behind the first-place Atlanta Braves. The Nationals also finished four games out of the wild-card race, behind Pittsburgh and Cincinnati.
"All in all, I thought we played pretty well," Harper said. "Baseball is a game of ups and downs. Some days you have to tip your cap to teams and certain players. That's part of the game."
Harper's health will be vital for the Nationals to get back in the playoff hunt in 2014. He was limited to 118 games total in 2013, finishing with a slash line of .274/.368/.486 with 20 home runs. Harper said he expected all of those numbers to improve with a clean bill of health. He also said he anticipated the team would play better and close the gap with the Braves.
"We had talent last year," Harper said. "It's just the Braves played very, very well all year long. They never had any gaps where they didn't play well. They're a great team, a great organization. We're going to have our hands full with them and a lot of other teams."
Harper also said he was excited about playing for new Nationals manager Matt Williams. The two share many of the same traits as players -- aggressive with an overriding will to win.
"Matt is hard-nosed manager and was a hard-nosed player," Harper said. "I was fortunate to talk to him earlier this year. I think we're going to have a lot of fun. I'm real excited. He's going to bring a spark to the team the way he manages."
For now, Harper seemed ready for a clean slate.
"Hopefully, I won't have to go through that again," Harper said. "I don't like getting hurt. I like being able to play the field. I'm just going to try to go into this year and get better every day.
"I really don't want to think about last year. I want to focus on this year."