Harper on track to begin rehab assignment Tuesday at Potomac

Bryce Harper continues to progress as he rehabs the bursitis in his left knee, and if all goes well over the next few days, Harper should be able to head out on a rehab assignment on Tuesday.

Harper did some running in the outfield and took some full swings in the indoor batting cage yesterday, and he was set to do the same today. The swelling in Harper's knee has not returned despite the increased activity, which is obviously a good sign.

The plan for now, according to manager Davey Johnson, is that Harper will remain with the Nationals through the weekend, taking part in baseball activities. If the knee continues to respond favorably, Harper could head out to high Single-A Potomac and start appearing in games on Tuesday.

"He'll probably work with us through Monday, baseball stuff before he'll be ready to go out," Johnson said.

"He's doing fine. I was in the workout room with him, I saw him doing contortions and everything else. His schedule, he'll probably hit inside again today. He'll be doing some outside activities, he'll be doing some outfield stuff maybe outside."

Harper will continue to be monitored closely over the weekend and through his rehab assignment, but Johnson doesn't think that Harper will need much game action before he's ready to be activated. The issue isn't as much getting Harper back into playing shape or letting him see a lot of pitches, but more making sure the knee can withstand the wear and tear of games.

"Knowing Harp, I don't think he's gonna need much," Johnson said. "But the main thing, it's not so much timing, it's more about seeing how his knee reacts to being out there for nine innings."

It's possible Harper's able to return to the Nationals' lineup as soon as next weekend against the Mets, although the Nats might prefer to take things slowly with him and ensure that he's fully healthy before he's activated off the DL. If Harper plays Tuesday at Potomac, rests Wednesday and then comes through another rehab game on Thursday without incident, he could make the trip to New York with the Nats.

If he needs more rehab games, however, Harper would need to join a different affiliate. The P-Nats leave town after Thursday's game, but low Single-A Hagerstown comes back into town for the weekend. If Harper joins the Suns, that would allow him to play with his older brother Bryan, who is a pitcher for Hagerstown. The Harper brothers haven't gotten a chance to play pro ball together to this point.

bryce-harper-bloody-sidebar.jpgHarper will wear some sort of padding on his knee to try and protect the swollen bursa sac once he returns, Johnson said, but the 20-year-old outfielder risks re-aggravating the injury anytime he bangs the knee, be it into the ground when sliding or diving for a ball, or when he crashes into a wall in pursuit of a fly ball.

Hopefully those incidents are in the past, however.

"He doesn't know how to slide but one way," Johnson said. "We've put every kind of precautionary measure on his knee. He's just going to have to play. We're not going to give him sliding drills. He's just going to play."

Harper originally injured the knee on May 13, hasn't played since May 26, and was finally placed on the DL on June 1 (retroactive to May 27). But it looks like he could be back with the Nats before too long.

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