Harper gearing up for return to majors
[Updated 12:31 a.m.]
After three minor league rehab appearances - most recently on Thursday night in Bowie with the Harrisburg Senators - Bryce Harper has shown pretty much all he can show as he continues to recover from left knee bursitis.
Over his three rehab games, Harper has homered, drawn walks, and done just about everything he can on the base paths. He’s gone from first to third, first to home, he’s slid into base head first, he’s even slid leading with the left knee.
Baserunning was said to be the key to Harper getting the clearance to return to the Nationals. If that was the most important test, he seems to have passed.
In Thursday’s outing Harper went 2-for-4 with a two-RBI triple, a walk and a single. He looked every bit the player he usually is at full health, after playing two games in Potomac that tested his knee in a variety of ways.
Harper left the game after playing six innings, he was originally planned to play nine. But Thursday's game was a long one, taking nearly two hours just to get through the first three innings.
Senators' manager Matt LeCroy said the length of game was the reason he was pulled.
"It was just too long. He had been out there for two and a half hours," LeCroy said.
"The first couple of innings there, it was very lengthy. He had to score from first, he hit the triple, he got on the bases, and then a lot of time out in the outfield."
LeCroy said he and Nationals officials had seen enough from Harper to call it a day.
"It was sort of similar to playing a full game. He looked good, swung the bat well, made a couple of plays in the outfield. I thought he moved around real good."
Harper spoke to LeCroy after the game and said his knee felt fine.
"I asked him, ‘how you feeling?’ He’s fine, he feels strong and he just needs to get the reps."
Through three rehab games, Harper is 4-for-8 with a home run, three RBI, four runs, two walks, and a stolen base. He last played for the Nationals on May 26 when he aggravated the knee injury in a game against the Phillies.
Harper has been aiming for a Monday return against the Brewers, but at this point there is little more for him to prove. LeCroy called the situation day-to-day as Harper will test his knee on Friday before making any further plans. If Harper feels as good as he's looked over the last few days, he could be ready to return early as the Nats travel to New York this weekend to play the Mets.
Harper was not allowed to speak to the media about his progress because he only played six innings. He has yet to talk to reporters since going on his rehab assignment.