Harper has played catch once in Miami and once here last weekend prior to a game against the Phillies. He appeared to be throwing well and with no limitations from 90 feet. He even had to catch a high throw and come down on both legs without any issues.
“What’s next is hopefully have him start hitting and see how his legs feel,” Baker said. “Because running and sliding and dodging is going to be the thing. He’s progressing. I got my trainers let me know when he’s really progressing. You don’t want to force him to progress because that leads to regression. Maybe those five days off is meant to be, which to help him get five days possibly closer to being ready.”
Left fielder Jayson Werth returned from the disabled list Aug. 28 after missing time with a broken foot. He played in eight games through Sept. 6, but went 0-for-20 in his last six games. It was revealed that Werth had a sore left shoulder after getting hit by a pitch in a rehab game in August.
Werth again was out of the lineup Tuesday in the opener against the Braves. Baker remains cautious as to when he wants him back on the field.
“He was better today, but I thought it’d be best to wait and see tomorrow,” Baker said. “He’s on day-to-day.”
The acquisition of Howie Kendrick was a big find for the Nats and provided a bat and an outfielder who could replace Werth while he was out. But Kendrick has not only been an adequate replacement, he has excelled. Kendrick has slashed .286/.349/.455 with three doubles, two triples, two homers and 12 RBIs in his last 28 days with the Nats. In August, he hit .357 with five homers and 21 RBIs.
Might Baker consider using Kendrick even if Werth returns because Kendrick’s bat has been so hot?
“It’s too early to tell. I’ll figure it out,” Baker said. “It depends on how Jayson’s doing. It’s a pretty nice bench. But Jayson has been our left fielder. Both of them have been through the wars, so to speak. But to have Jayson and Lind or to have Kendrick and Lind, that’s a pretty good left-right combination, and they played enough to feel like a regular and not a substitute as far as time and at-bats, which I think is in their favor.”
It could be an interesting scenario that Baker may have to decide upon if it comes down to a choice between Werth and newcomer Kendrick in a postseason matchup. If Kendrick is red hot at the plate, how could he not go with the hot hand?
But Baker also has been extremely loyal to his veterans, especially a team leader in Werth who has had three months of his season taken away from him because of a foot injury, and this might be his last go-around for a title.
If Werth can come back and get into a nice rhythm before the regular season wraps, you have to assume that’s the avenue Baker will select.