Harper plays light catch, first baseball activity since injury

MIAMI - It wasn't all that much - a 10-minute light game of catch in shallow right field - and there are plenty more significant hurdles Bryce Harper will need to cross before he is close to returning to the Nationals lineup. But given the violent leg injury he appeared to sustain 3 1/2 weeks ago, even this minor step was an important accomplishment for the recovering Nationals star.

"It's very encouraging," manager Dusty Baker said. "You see him doing light baseball activities, you know he's on the way."

Bryce-Harper-carried-off-field-sidebar.jpgThis was the first time Harper has attempted to do anything baseball-related on a field since suffering a significant bone bruise in his left knee and strain of his left calf after slipping on first base Aug. 12 at Nationals Park. He hasn't begun running - or even jogging - on the field yet, and that will be a more telling test of his leg than anything else, but this was a good first step toward his return before the end of the season.

Before his throwing session, Harper walked the stairs in the lower deck at Marlins Park with Harvey Sharman, the Nationals' director of medical services. He then took the field with head athletic trainer Dale Gilbert for the throw-and-catch session.

Starting out from approximately 30 feet and progressing out to 45 feet, Harper appeared to be taking care not to put all his weight on his left leg as he threw. He certainly didn't make throws with the kind of force he normally would when healthy.

But he emerged from the brief session showing no ill effects of the injury, and the Nationals were encouraged by what took place.

There's still no firm timetable for Harper's recovery. He already has missed 3 1/2 weeks. Game 1 of the National League Division Series is 4 1/2 weeks away.

"Nobody can predict exactly where he is," Baker said. "At least he initiated signs of progress. You can't rush progress. You have to let progress take care of itself."

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