Johnson would place no restrictions on Harper in All-Star game

Despite missing 31 games with a knee injury, outfielder Bryce Harper continues to be in the top four in National League outfield voting for the All-Star Game, which is July 16 at Citi Field.

Harper returned to the lineup Monday for the first time since late May, cranking a solo homer in his first at-bat in a 10-5 Nationals victory over Milwaukee.

Major League Baseball welcomed him back with open arms. Returning at the beginning of July, many started asking if Harper would play in the All-Star Game - if so honored - despite a tender knee that had him on the shelf for five weeks.

Harper trails the Braves’ Justin Upton by 15,000 votes in the latest round of tallies. But he is still prominently displayed on’s featured page for the All-Star Game.

Nationals manager Davey Johnson believes that not only should Harper play, but voted for Harper. Johnson thinks the game action is actually a good thing for a player who has missed over a month.

“I think it is a great honor,” Johnson said. “I think you go. I think he is well rested. Get him some more (at-bats). Last week he was in the starting outfield and now he is not. Did I vote for him? Mm-hmm. You can vote for your own players.”

Harper hit the second pitch he saw from the Brewers’ Yovani Gallardo for an opposite-field homer that started the scoring for the Nationals on Monday. It was similar to what Harper did on opening day, April 1 against Miami, when he hit two home runs for the only scoring in a 2-0 Nationals win.

So do the exploits of the Nationals’ famous 20-year-old slugger ever faze his veteran manager?

“Not really,” Johnson said. “I saw him when he was a 15-year-old hit a ball 500 feet. Of course, that was aluminum bat in St. Pete. His first big league camp, he hit .390 in the spring. He got thrown out a couple of times trying to stretch singles into doubles and doubles into triples. He has got a lot of talent and he likes expressing it. He likes the moment.”

Johnson said Harper has made important strides in the year and three months he has been at the big league level.

“He struggled a little bit when he expanded the zone (last season),” Johnson noted. “But then when we got in the pennant race, he made them throw it over.”

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