As of now, the Nationals plan for Harper to play Monday and Tuesday at Class A Potomac, then take Wednesday off to let him rest and evaluate his left thumb, on which he underwent surgery in April to repair a torn ligament.
Harper has said he wants to play between seven and nine minor league games to get his swing and timing back. Manager Matt Williams said he thought that was a sound plan.
Williams said Harper will play around five innings on Monday and Tuesday. Beyond Wednesday’s off day, the tentative plan is for Harper to play five innings Thursday and seven on Friday before another off day Saturday. Then he’ll play seven innings Sunday and nine on Monday as a designated hitter. Williams said Harper would hopefully finish his assignment with two full games after that, getting him back into the Nationals’ lineup in time for the next homestand against the Colorado Rockies.
“We’re all itching for him to get back, and he’s itching to get back, too,” Williams said. “I just want him to go play and get his timing, feel good about it and make sure he doesn’t push it so much that he does something detrimental to his progress.”
Harper will play all three positions in the outfield during his assignment. Once Harper returns, Williams plans to move Harper around the outfield to accommodate a lineup logjam.
When left fielder Ryan Zimmerman’s was returning from a broken thumb, his assignment was just four games, and he was learning to play left field during that time as opposed to his usual position at third base.
“That nature of [Harper’s] injury is much more serious than Ryan’s,” Williams said. “A broken bone heals, and once it’s healed, it’s healed. This is an on-going thing. You start talking about ligaments and tendons and all of that, the stress put on it is certainly a concern. We’ve just got to be sure that he’s okay. There’s going to be residual soreness to it. He’s been out so long without games, you have to get back into game shape. He was out longer than Zim, too.”