Harper glad to be back, but thinks Zimmerman should be playing left field

Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper is back for the first time since April 25.

Harper is batting sixth and playing left field.

With his team in first place on June 30, Harper is enjoying where the Nationals are as he returns from a torn ligament in his left thumb.

“They played well when I was gone,” Harper said. “Be able to come back and enjoy this team and enjoy being out there. It’s going to be a lot fun. I am excited (to) get back out there and play and see where we are and have some fun.”

Harper essentially announced he was ready to play after crushing three homers in Akron on Saturday night in the last of his five rehab games, the final three of which were with Double-A Harrisburg.

“I felt good at the plate,” Harper said. “That’s the only thing I really cared about. I could care less about being on base or the outfield or anything like that. It’s always a process. My swing, I felt pretty good. I felt that I was where I needed to be and very excited to come back and hopefully help this team win.”

But is Harper happy to play left field for Nationals, or would he prefer center field?

Last Tuesday after his rehab game for Single-A Potomac he said he prefers center field because he’s involved in more plays there, and he believes it also helps his at-bats.

And he gave an interesting answer today when asked about how Ryan Zimmerman did in left field.

“He’s great. I think he should be playing left,” Harper said. “I mean, Rendon is a great third baseman, he should be playing third. We got one of the best second baseman in the league in Danny Espinosa. Of course, you want the best hitting lineup in there and I think Rendon playing third and Zim playing left is something that (is) good for this team and I think that should be what’s happening.”

The problem is the Nationals have a center fielder in Denard Span.

Manager Matt Williams said he just wants Harper in the lineup and will not touch the drama of whether he should play center field instead of Span.

“I think that I would say we’re happy to have him back and when he’s out there, regardless of where he’s at, we’d like him to catch it when it’s hit to him and hit it when it’s thrown to him and play the way Bryce plays,” Williams said.

“That’s important for us. I don’t have any comment other than we’re glad to have him in our lineup. Hopefully, I can write his name in there every single day for the rest of the year. That would be very important to our club.”

Harper said he found out he was starting in left field via social media.

“I didn’t talk to nobody about anything,” Harper said. “So I have no clue. I know I am playing left tonight via Twitter. Guess that’s where I’m going.”

And Harper is not worried about re-injuring the thumb. He said he will slide head first if he has to.

“No, I am just going to play. If I hurt it, I hurt it,” Harper said. “If I blow it out, I blow it out.

“I am going to slide head first, I am going to slide feet first when I need to. Sliding head first is what I feel comfortable doing and I’m going to keep doing it.”

Harper and Williams are also pleased that the eight starting offensive players are back as one unit for the first time since March 31.

“It’s going to be nice. Being able to have everyone in there,” Harper said. “Hopefully, we can get it going. Just play the game that we know how to play and keep winning. Hopefully, I can give us a boost and hopefully be in first place at the half.”

“We’re happy to have Bryce back,” Williams said. “Pretty quick turnaround considering what he went through with his thumb.

“He played well the time he played in the minor leagues for sure. Expressed that he’s ready to go. So we’re excited about that. We’ve talked about a million times its nice to have everybody back and get to write the names in the lineup on opening day once again so that’s a good thing.”

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