BOWIE, Md. -- Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper appears ready to return to the big league club as he rehabs from bursitis in his left knee.
Harper played left field for Double-A Harrisburg on Thursday night in the 11-6 Senators win over the Bowie Baysox. It was his third rehab game of the week.
He was supposed to play nine innings. If a regular game averages nine innings in three hours, Harper almost got that much work in time alone.
Harper had four plate appearances in the first five innings, including one each in the first three frames. It was 8:30 p.m. in the third inning.
So when he struck out in the seventh inning, he had been able to get enough work in.
He finished 2-for-4 with a single, triple, two runs, one walk, one strikeout and two RBIs.
In left field, Harper made a couple of catches on long fly balls with no trouble.
He did have a couple of slides into bases on his left knee, but there was no indication that he was laboring after those slides.
Harper was not made available to the media postgame. The Nationals had said prior to his rehab stints that Harper would only be made available if he played nine innings. Harper ended up playing only into the top of the seventh.
Harrisburg manager Matt Lecroy said Harper was pulled because he played for almost three hours in the high-scoring affair.
“The first couple of innings there was very lengthy,” Lecroy said. “He had to score from first, he had the triple. He got on the bases and had a lot of time out in the outfield. It was just too long. He was out there two and a half hours, 2:40, so sort of similar to playing a full game.
The time of game was 3 hours, 23 minutes.
“He looked good, swung the bat well. He made a couple plays in the outfield. I thought he moved around good on the bases, which is a good sign,” Lecroy said.
Lecroy did ask Harper how his knee was reacting.
“I asked him, ‘How do you feel?’ He is fine,” Lecroy reported. “He feels strong. He just needs the reps. Unfortunately tonight, with the way our game went, both teams didn’t command the baseball. It led to a long game. We just felt it was right to get out of the game. Fortunately, we got him out for the game before the weather came.”
Lecroy said a good indication that Harper was feeling confident in the strength of his knee were the at-bats when he tripled and singled.
“I had not seen him play much but I thought he was really aggressive,” Lecroy said. “He scored from first, that was a big one, then a triple. That was enough for me. I saw some aggressive base running, kind of running like I am normally used to seeing him run. It was good.”
There is a good possibility that Harper will play here again Saturday for Harrisburg in their final game of the series against Bowie. It would be another opportunity for Harper to play nine innings, which has been an unwritten goal for this week of rehab. No official word has been released as to when Harper’s next rehab game will be scheduled or if he will head to New York with the Nationals.
Manager Davey Johnson has said a few times this week that he had hoped to have Harper back for the home series which begins Monday against Milwaukee.