The Washington Times - June 20, 2013, 06:37PM

The Washington Nationals got encouraging news on outfielder Bryce Harper upon their arrival at home to begin a week-long homestand. Harper ran in the outfield at Nationals Park on Thursday, hit in the batting cage and manager Davey Johnson feels a rehab assignment may be near

Harper, who hasn’t played since May 26, received a cortisone shot and a platelet-rich plasma injection in the inflamed bursa sac in his left knee on June 10. After a week of rest, the 20-year-old has been ramping up his activity this week and his progress has been good.


“He’s got to convince the medical staff that he’s good to go,” Johnson said. “As soon as they run him through the traces today, it might be an early date for him to go out and play a little bit.”

The Nationals have avoided setting any kind of a firm timetable for Harper’s return as he continues to battle swelling and pain in his knee. General manager Mike Rizzo said on Wednesday that it is an injury he’ll have to figure out how to manage and avoid aggravating again.

But the fact that Harper is getting close to possibly going on a rehab assignment is a positive sign.

“He did some unauthorized running at a pretty good speed and it didn’t swell up,” Johnson said. “He’s close. If it doesn’t swell up (Friday), as far as I’m concerned he can play somewhere.

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

It appears that Harper’s timetable has been sped up, as the Nationals’ training staff said on Monday that Harper had just begun walking and light jogging. Johnson said he expected the outfielder had been sneaking a few other activities, and was doing plenty of them on Thursday.

Still, as long as he does not suffer a setback, it’s good news for the Nationals, who are 10-17 when Harper is not in the lineup.

“It’ll be good to get Harper back,” Johnson said. “He’s kind of a catalyst for us. He was last year, his aggressiveness on both sides of the ball.”