WOODBRIDGE, Va. — Bryce Harper reached base in both of his plate appearances, and Wilson Ramos went 3-for-4 with a 3-run homer Monday night in a rehab game with Class A Potomac for both members of the Nationals’ starting lineup.
Harper, making his first game appearance since tearing a ligament in his left thumb on April 26, singled to left field in the bottom of the first and then battled back from an 0-2 count to draw a walk off Salem right-hander Justin Haley.
“I felt good,” he said. “I thought I had two pretty good AB’s. I just want to see pitches. If I can work deep in counts and see more pitches, that’s huge for me. If I strike out or walk, that’s fine, too. I just want to see a lot of pitches.”
The 21-year-old star played three innings in left field, successfully catching the only ball hit his way before departing as planned. He’s scheduled to play five innings here in center field Tuesday as Nationals officials prepare him for the likelihood of bouncing around all three outfield positions as part of a rotation with Ryan Zimmerman, Denard Span and Jayson Werth once he comes off the disabled list.
Harper admitted he’d prefer to stick to one position for the rest of the season but understands circumstances may not allow that.
“I kind of like it, and I kind of don’t, because I want to get comfortable in one spot,” he said. “I think I got in a little trouble last year playing right field and getting hurt. Just trying to stay in one spot would be great, but with the outfield we have, I don’t think that is going to happen.”
Just as Zimmerman has done since returning from his own thumb injury, Harper wore a mini over mitt over his left hand when on the bases Monday. He’ll continue to do that until there’s no more danger of further injury.
“Me and Ryan, we’re going to go bake,” he joked.
The Nationals plan to take things slow with Harper. After his planned 5-inning game Tuesday, he’ll take a day off, then join another minor-league affiliate — possibly low-Class A Hagerstown — later this week and build himself up more. If all goes well, he would be on track to come off the DL early next week when the Nationals host the Brewers, either Tuesday or Wednesday.
Ramos, on the other hand, feels like he could rejoin the Nationals lineup right now if only he was allowed. He won’t be eligible to come off the 15-day DL from his hamstring strain until Thursday, so he’ll play nine innings for Potomac once again on Tuesday, then fly to Chicago on Wednesday in hopes of playing Thursday night at Wrigley Field.
“I want to play tomorrow here, get better,” he said. “I know I have to complete those 15 days out, but I’m ready now. If they called me up, I’m ready now. But for me, it’s better if I play tomorrow here, get more at-bats and try to be more ready for Thursday.”
After clubbing a 3-run homer to right field in his rehab debut Saturday at Class AA Harrisburg, Ramos did it again Monday, launching another 3-run shot just inside the right-field foul pole moments after Harper singled in the bottom of the third. He followed that up with a fifth-inning single, then an eighth-inning double.
“I just told him: ‘You’re terrible,’ ” Harper joked. “It’s good to see him doing well. We need Willy up there. He’s one of the best-hitting catchers in the league when he is hot. It’s good to see him going.”