Pregame notes on Harper, Zimmerman and Belisle

PHILADELPHIA - Bryce Harper is out of the Nationals lineup for the second consecutive day, his right knee still sore after getting hit by a pitch two nights ago, though the club is hopeful he'll be ready to return for Friday night's series opener in Cincinnati.

Harper did take some swings in the batting cage this afternoon for the first time since getting hurt, but the team figured it wasn't worth taking any chances, especially with Thursday off before this weekend's series against the Reds.

"We're going to give it another day, especially with the off-day tomorrow, and try to get him ready for Cincinnati," manager Dusty Baker said. "Still day-to-day."

harper-disappointed-nlds-dugoutrail-sidebar.jpgHarper was walking around the clubhouse this afternoon without a significant limp and without the protective sleeve that covered his knee yesterday. He has a large bruise just above the outside of his right knee.

"It's going to be sore for a few days, especially if it hits you right there," Baker said.

For now, the Nationals continue to call Harper's injury a right knee contusion and don't plan further tests.

"I don't know if he had MRIs. I doubt it," Baker said. "They looked at it structurally, and they said it seemed sound. We'll just have to see."

With Harper out, Jayson Werth is again starting in right field, though the Nationals are going with a different look around the rest of their outfield. With left-hander Adam Morgan starting for the Phillies, Chris Heisey is in left field and Michael A. Taylor is in center field, giving Baker a lineup full of right-handed batters.

Other pregame notes from Citizens Bank Park ...

* Ryan Zimmerman is likely going to go on paternity leave in the next few days, with wife Heather close to giving birth to the couple's second child. With two off-days surrounding this weekend's series in Cincinnati, Zimmerman might be able to take some extra time with his family while only missing three games. When the time comes, the Nationals will be allowed to promote another player from the minors to take Zimmerman's roster spot while he's away from the team.

* Matt Belisle pitched two innings in relief last night for Double-A Harrisburg, his latest rehab appearance. The 35-year-old right-hander, on the disabled list with a strained calf, allowed one run over two innings. Baker suggested he'd like Belisle to pitch on back-to-back days before he is activated.

"And then we'll make an evaluation," the manager said. "But barring any setbacks, it seems like he's on the way."

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