Harper close to doing baseball activities, Espinosa re-working his swing (updated)

PHILADELPHIA - General manager Mike Rizzo said today that outfielder Bryce Harper is "a couple days" away from starting baseball activities as he works his way back from bursitis in his left knee, a condition that has held Harper out of the Nationals' lineup for the last 20 games.

Harper got a cortisone shot in his knee last Monday and was told by Dr. James Andrews to rest the knee for a week. Harper was cleared to start some ground-based exercises this Monday after getting examined by Nationals medical director Dr. Wiemi Douoguih, and after a couple days of doing some walking without a knee brace, he's now been cleared to take the next step in his rehab.

The Nats still say they don't want to put a timetable on when Harper will be able to get back into rehab games or return to the big league lineup, but will instead focus on Harper's daily progression.

"We're just going to take it day-by-day and see where he is, always, the next day and see how the knee responds to that activity that day," Rizzo said.

"It's been good progress (so far). That allows us to ramp it up. Now he'll go from activities to baseball activities, and we'll build from that."

Meanwhile, Rizzo discussed the process that Danny Espinosa is going through now that he's been optioned to Triple-A Syracuse. The Nats are trying to re-work Espinosa's swing by overhauling his mechanics, allowing him to get to a comfortable place in the box.

"We're trying to tear down his approach and his swing and make some adjustments and see if we can get back the Danny Espinosa that we saw such good progress in when he first got to the big leagues," Rizzo said.

"We need for him to get to a place in his mechanics and his approach that allows him to put the barrel of the bat on the ball and to utilize the other skills that he has: power, speed, defense and that type of thing. He has to be more consistent and have an approach that allows him to succeed at this level."

Anthony Rendon has been raking since coming back up to the big leagues when Espinosa landed on the DL with a fractured right wrist a little over two weeks ago. In that time, Rendon has a slash line of .395/.435/.605, and he has at least one hit in 10 of 11 games.

Rizzo was asked whether Rendon's play will affect how the team handles Espinosa in the coming weeks.

"I think they're independent of each other," Rizzo said. "We want Rendon to succeed at this level. We want Danny to get his approach back where he can be a valuable commodity for us up here on the ballclub here."

Game Update: Two batters into the bottom of the first inning, Gio Gonzalez and the Nationals already trailed 2-0.

Gonzalez gave up a leadoff single to Ben Revere and then Michael Young smacked a two-run homer to left. It's Young's fifth extra-base hit off Nats pitching this series.

We've completed just one inning, and the Nats are already in a hole.

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