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Bryce Harper to return Monday, barring setbacks

Bryce Harper. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

Bryce Harper will rejoin the Nationals on Monday barring any setbacks, according to a person familiar with the matter. Harper’s return after missing 57 games with a torn ligament in his left thumb that required surgery would reunite the Nationals’ lineup for the first time since opening day.

Harper is playing in his fifth minor league rehab game on Saturday, serving as the designated hitter for Class AA Harrisburg in Akron. Harper has progressed from three innings to a full nine innings in the field on Friday. The Nationals wanted Harper to play full games back-to-back before returning, and he can accomplish that on Saturday.

Harper hit three home runs with Harrisburg on Saturday. He has homered four times in his rehab assignment so far, going 5 for 9 with six RBI in his first four games. Harper could get a day off Sunday and meet the Nationals in Washington for Monday’s game.

Harper has played every outfield position during his rehab assignment, including Friday’s nine innings in center field. Nationals Manager Matt Williams has said he plans to use Harper throughout the outfield when he returns. Although Harper has mostly played left field since 2013, he has stated his preference is to play center field but that he will play wherever he’s needed.

A potential regular configuration has Harper playing left field, Denard Span in center and Jayson Werth in right. Ryan Zimmerman has manned left field for the past month since his return, an ideal place for his worn right shoulder. But Williams has maintained that Zimmerman will see time in left, first base and even return to his old position of third base when Harper returns.

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