- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 10, 2014

BALTIMOREBryce Harper has been back in the Washington Nationals’ lineup for two weeks but it is taking some time for him to look the way everyone hoped he would this year.

Harper’s timing at the plate has been off since his return, with his batting average in July sitting at an inauspicious .120 entering play Thursday.

“He’s close,” manager Matt Williams said ahead of the last game in the Beltway series with the Orioles. “He popped the ball up last night and he was right on that one. He was right on the other pitches, too. The second at-bat last night was first pitch changeup. His path was good and his timing was good, it was just a changeup.

“It’s coming. I know he doesn’t want to hear that, but it really is coming.”

The notoriously impatient young star has been anxious to get back onto the field after a two-month absence for a torn left thumb ligament. Despite his struggles at the plate he has helped to spark a Washington offense that had won eight of 10 entering Thursday.

“It feels good to have guys back and feeling good about it,” said Williams. “We never expected to be in the position we were in in April and May, nobody would, but it is what it is. Those times you have to grind and do what you can to keep your head above water and bobble on until you get everybody back.”

SEE ALSO: Most popular MLB player jerseys: Bryce Harper at career low

Despite not having a healthy preferred lineup for the first three months of the season, the Nationals managed to keep the Atlanta Braves in sight and finally overtake them when Harper and company returned from the disabled list.

If history is any indicator however, it won’t be long before Harper is back to his old self.

“In his batting practice now, when he’s hitting the ball over the fence, say to right field, it’s straight and that’s the key,” said Williams. “It’s not hooking, he’s not hitting top-spin liners, he’s driving the ball with backspin, it’s just pull-side.”

As Harper continues to find his feet at the plate, the Nationals look to finish strong with one more game in Baltimore and a set in Philadelphia leading into the All-Star break.

Added Williams: “Now that we’ve got everybody back, we feel good about going out and playing.”

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