Williams provides updates on Harper, Gonzalez and Ramos

Nationals left fielder Bryce Harper took swings in the batting cage with both hands this afternoon for the first time since tearing the ulnar collateral ligament in his left thumb on April 26.

Manager Matt Williams told the media prior to tonight's game against the Astros that Harper is a taking a positive step in his rehab program.

"Today was the first time with two hands," Williams said. "It's limited, but he's excited about that."

Williams said Harper came through the hitting session without any problems.

"He didn't have any complaints about that," Williams said. "Again, it's not full-go, it's not full batting practice yet or any of that, but he's excited about the progression of moving forward."

Even though this is a positive step toward Harper's return, Williams cautioned that the left fielder is still a few weeks away from returning to the club.

"You don't know because you really don't know how it's going to react unless he steps things up and continues to go," Williams said. "Beyond July 1 is probably somewhere we can say, if all goes well the timeframe, but we have to see how it goes."

The Nats manager also provided injury updates on injured starter Gio Gonzalez, who is expected to be activated from the 15-day disabled list tomorrow.

Gonzalez, who has been out with left shoulder inflammation since May 18, threw a bullpen session on Monday and reported no complaints

"He threw really well. The ball was coming out really good," Williams said. "He's been itching to get back, too. He reported no pain, no discomfort throwing his bullpen yesterday"

Gonzalez made two minor league rehab starts. He allowed eight runs in his first start on June 6, but was much better on June 12, when he threw four innings and only allowed one run.

Finally, Williams said catcher Wilson Ramos is progressing as he tries to work his way back from a hamstring injury. Ramos is in the midst of a strengthening and stretching program. The Nationals hope to activate Ramos once his 15-day DL stint is up on June 25.

Williams expects Ramos to play in a rehab game before returning to the Nats.

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