- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 26, 2015

VIERA, Fla. — Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper made a brief appearance in the clubhouse at Space Coast Stadium on Thursday afternoon, grabbing a few things from his locker and saying hello to his brother, Bryan, before leaving the complex.

Harper didn’t travel to Jupiter, Florida, for Wednesday’s game against the St. Louis Cardinals after coming down with a stomach bug. He reported to the clubhouse Thursday before Washington’s game against the New York Mets and didn’t feel much better, so manager Matt Williams told him to head home.

“He came in, did a little bit of light swinging in the cage and he’s still not feeling good, so we sent him home again today,” Williams said. “[He’s just] sick to his stomach. It’s one of those rites of spring that everybody goes through at some point or another during spring training.”

Williams said Harper could return to the lineup Friday, depending on how he feels.

Though his illness is nothing serious, it did create another hole in Washington’s already beleaguered outfield Thursday. Clint Robinson, who is in camp on a minor-league contract, started in Harper’s place in right field. Michael Taylor started in center and Tyler Moore played left.

Werth’s availability for Opening Day ‘a question’

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Though he continues to take strides in his rehabilitation process after offseason shoulder surgery, left fielder Jayson Werth still has several steps to take in order to be ready by Opening Day, according to Williams.

“I still won’t [put anything past him]. You do run out of time, though,” Williams said. “There’s a question. For sure. The fact that he hasn’t had regular at-bats in spring training games yet makes me question that.”

Williams said Werth has taken swings in the batting cage but not completed a full session of batting practice. He still needs to take batting practice before receiving at-bats in a game, and he would need to get more than a handful of at-bats in games before returning to the lineup.

“He’s still working through the swinging part of it,” Williams said. “He’s playing defense, jumping from field to field to run the bases and do the things that he needs to do so when he is ready to hit, then he’s ready to play.”

Espinosa gets another shot at third base

Anthony Rendon is “better than he was yesterday,” according to Williams, but Washington’s starting third baseman is still not cleared to participate in baseball activities. So in Thursday’s game, reserve middle infielder Danny Espinosa started at third, making his fifth appearance at the position this spring.

Espinosa has long been lauded by those in the organization for his defensive prowess and arm strength, and Williams said he would be comfortable playing Espinosa at third when regular-season games begin.

“I’d be comfortable [with] him playing anywhere on the diamond. He’s an exceptional athlete,” Williams said. “If we got into a situation where we had to put him in the outfield, he’d do just fine. So I’m not concerned about that.”

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