Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper began a rehab assignment with Single-A Potomac on Tuesday night, testing his left knee with game action for the first time since May 26, and the team hopes he’ll be ready to return to the active roster on Monday.
It is unlikely that Harper, who has been dealing with bursitis in his knee, will be ready to return by the team’s weekend series in New York.
“I doubt if he’ll be able to make it that quick,” manager Davey Johnson said Tuesday.
The plan is for Harper to play three or four innings for Potomac on Tuesday, and then gradually build up to nine innings.
With Potomac going out of town after Thursday’s game, Harper would likely have to continue his rehab with Single-A Hagerstown over the weekend — where he’d get to play with his brother, Bryan, a pitcher for Hagerstown.
“Hopefully he doesn’t have any problems playing on it,” Johnson said. “I’m not so much worried about his timing, just how it reacts after he plays.”
“He only has one (gear): 150 percent,” Johnson added. “Even if it’s just three innings he ain’t going to be babying it. He doesn’t know how to do that. I’m hopeful the knee doesn’t react to him playing and hopefully he’ll be back vs. Milwaukee (on Monday).”
UPDATE: Harper was 1-for-1 with a bloop double and a walk as he played his requisite three innings on Tuesday night. He was picked off second base in the first inning, but he had to do some running in the outfield and also went first-to-third after walking in his second at-bat.
For all intents and purposes the reports on Harper’s game were very good. Manager Davey Johnson said after the game that the team was pleased with what they saw and heard from his start. Harper did not speak with the media due to a team directive.
“Had a great time playing in Potomac tonight!” Harper tweeted later. “Great crowds and just a great atmosphere! So blessed to be back! Felt great!”
So long as the swelling stays down in his knee, Harper is expected to play six innings for Potomac on Wednesday.