Johnson: Harper "close" to getting into rehab games

Barring any setbacks with his injured left knee, Bryce Harper should be back playing rehab games sometime in the near future.

Nationals manager Davey Johnson said today that Harper, who is dealing with bursitis in his knee, did some running in the outfield at Nats Park today and will do some hitting in the cages. As long as Harper's knee doesn't swell up tomorrow, Johnson believes that the Nationals outfielder could head out on a rehab assignment soon.

"I talked to Bryce, he looked great," Johnson said. "I think he's chomping at the bit. He's just gotta convince the medical staff that he's good to go.

"He's been doing some unauthorized running at a pretty good speed and he didn't swell up. ... He's close. If it doesn't swell up tomorrow, as far as I'm concerned, he can play some."

Since Harper was placed on the disabled list back on June 1, the Nats have been hesitant to put a timetable on when he might be able to return. Harper initially injured his left knee when running into the right field wall at Dodger Stadium back on May 13. He twice tried to return from the injury only to re-aggravate the knee, and needed to land back on the bench.

When the swelling in Harper's knee didn't go down in the week after he landed on the DL, the Nats sent him to Dr. James Andrews for a second opinion on the knee. Dr. Andrews gave Harper a cortisone shot in the knee to get rid of the swelling and inflammation, and after another week of rest, Harper was cleared to start taking part in "ground-based exercises" on Monday.

Harper did some walking and light jogging and then was cleared for baseball activities, which he took part in today.

It's unclear how quickly Harper will be able to get into rehab games or when he might be back in the Nats' lineup. The Nats still don't want to be too specific about their timetable for Harper in case he needs to be slowed down a bit. But it's clear Harper is progressing.

"The way I look at it, is he goes and plays a couple of games and if he doesn't have any swelling in the knee, he'll be ready," Johnson said. "As far as timing and that, I'm not worried about that. It's just, can his knee stand the punishment."

For what it's worth, high Single-A Potomac is home from tomorrow, June 20 through next Thursday, June 27. That could give Harper a nice local spot to get into some games and work himself back into playing shape.

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