Bryce Harper took swings in the batting cage and ran around the outfield at Nationals Park today as he closes in on a rehab assignment, Manager Davey Johnson said. Harper has not played since May 26 with left knee bursitis, and while the Nationals do not have a precise timetable for his return, he appears to be closing in on coming back to the Nationals’ lineup.
“From the way I look at it, he goes and plays a couple games and he doesn’t have any swelling in the knee, he’ll be ready,” Johnson said. “As far as timing, I’m not worried about that. It’s just, can his knee stand the punishment of being on it?”
“He’s close,” Johnson added. “If it doesn’t swell up tomorrow, as far as I’m concerned, he can play some.”
Based on Johnson’s calculus, Harper timeline seems to have sped up. On Monday, one week after he received a cortisone shot from orthopedist Dr. James Andrews, the Nationals’ training staff cleared Harper to begin walking again without a knee brace. Today, Johnson said, Harper was running in the outfield.
“He looked great,” Johnsons said. “I think he’s champing at the bit. He’s just got to convince the medical staff that he’s going to be good to go. They’ll run him through the traces, I guess. Today might be a good day for him to go out and play a little bit.”
Wednesday, General Manager Mike Rizzo said Harper could begin baseball activities in a day or two. Johnson presumes Harper had already started.
“He probably won’t tell anybody, but I’m sure he’s been doing baseball stuff,” Johnson said.
The Nationals have gone 10-17 with Harper out of the starting lineup this season. He has been by far their best hitter, batting .287/.386/.587 with 12 home runs through his first 44 games.