Updated at 8:25 p.m.
Bryce Harper will begin a rehab assignment with Class A Potomac on Monday, according to a source familiar with the Nationals’ plan for their injured outfielder, and begin the final stage of recovery process that should have him back in the big leagues on or around July 2.
Harper, out since tearing a ligament in his left thumb on April 26, has been taking batting practice and working in the outfield over the last few days at Nationals Park and has now been cleared to start playing in games.
The plan: Harper will play for Potomac on Monday and Tuesday nights at Pfitzner Stadium, then take Wednesday off. He would return to play Thursday and Friday (likely at another affiliate since Potomac goes on the road), then take Saturday off before returning to play three final rehab games, building up to nine innings of action.
“He’ll go the regular progression,” manager Matt Williams said. “Five innings, couple of at-bats, depending on how he feels. Could be less than five innings his first time out, depending on how the at-bats go, what his thumb feels like, how his body feels. He’ll get a DH day in there, he’ll get an off-day in there, work day.”
The plan, still tentative, could change depending on how Harper feels. But as currently constructed, he could come off the disabled list July 2 when the Nationals wrap up a home series with the Rockies.
“Depends on how he feels,” Williams said. “That’s fluid.”
Harper will play all three outfield positions while on rehab, Williams said, further suggested the Nationals plan to move several regular players around once everyone is healthy. With Ryan Zimmerman likely to continue playing in left field at least some of the time, Harper could find himself moving to center and even right field at times, giving Denard Span and Jayson Werth days off.
While Harper is set to return to action Monday, teammate Wilson Ramos played tonight for Class AA Harrisburg in the first game of his rehab assignment and immediately showed off his power stroke. Ramos went 1-for-3 with a homer — a 3-run, opposite-field shot — while catching five innings for the Senators.
Ramos, out since June 11 with a strained right hamstring, is due to play for Harrisburg again on Sunday, then join Harper at Potomac on Monday. The catcher is eligible to come off the DL on Thursday, and he expects to join the Nationals that night for their series opener against the Cubs at Wrigley Field.