Harper tests injured hamstring for first time in running drills

HARRISBURG, Pa. - Missing his trademark eye black, injured Double-A Harrisburg outfielder Bryce Harper was back on the field Thursday for the first time since being placed on the disabled list after sustaining a right hamstring injury Aug. 18.

Harper spent 20 minutes in the Metro Bank Park outfield, first jogging under the watchful eyes of team training staff, then increasing his past to half-speed as he ran from right to center field and back again. He later played catch and practiced his throws from center field to the right field line, showing uncanny accuracy for a player who’s been sidelined for two weeks.

A Nationals public relations representative declined to make the 18-year-old available for reporters after his workout, but Harper appeared in good spirits as he joked with Washington general manager Mike Rizzo, principal owner Mark Lerner, assistant general manager Bob Boone and player development director Doug Harris on the Senators’ bench.

“Today was the first day he ran. He continues to improve each day and right now, it’s day to day,” Harris said. “We’ll keep our arms around it and see what tomorrow holds. We’re certainly not going to jeopardize him or any other player health-wise. For us, there’s a progression that’s involved and right now, it’s the early stages of it.”

Harper is one of a five Nationals farmhands who have been selected to represent the organization in the Arizona Fall League with the Scottsdale Scorpions, and all of Harper’s injury rehabilitation work is designed to hopefully have him ready for the opening of the AFL season. However, if Harper continues to progress, he could still be on the Senators’ active roster for the Eastern League playoffs.

“Anybody that’s a competitor wants to be out there and get cranked up,” said Harris. “He also understands that his health is important and he respects the process.”

This season will be the second in the AFL for Harper, who played on the Scorpions’ taxi squad last year and was eligible only on Wednesdays and Saturdays. This time around, he’ll eligible to play every day. Scottsdale opens AFL play Oct. 4 when the Scorpions host the Surprise Saguaros.