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Nationals hoping to get Bryce Harper back by July 1

By Mike Axisa | Baseball Writer

Bryce Harper is still a few weeks away from rejoining the Nationals.
Bryce Harper is still a few weeks away from rejoining the Nationals. (USATSI)

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The Nationals are starting to get healthy, with both Adam LaRoche and Ryan Zimmerman recently returning from the disabled list. They are still without Bryce Harper though, and will be for another few weeks as he rehabs from surgery to repair a torn thumb ligament.

On Wednesday, manager Matt Williams told reporters Harper is doing some light baseball activities, and they hope to get him back by July 1. Here's what he told Mark Zuckerman of CSN Washington:

"We don't know yet, but I'd like to see him back by the 1st of July," manager Matt Williams said Wednesday. "I think that would be a good target, but we just don't know. It depends on how everything else goes."

...

"He's just doing some fielding with his glove and some throwing," Williams said. "Just to get maintain as much motion as he can. To maintain as much baseball activity as he can, without doing too much with it."

...

"It's not time (to ramp up baseball activities) yet," Williams said. "He's itching, he's pacing. But that's one of those things where he's 21 years old. If it doesn't heal right, it can affect him long-term. So we want to make sure he's good before he's able to get back out here."

The Nationals have been playing Zimmerman in left field since he returned from the disabled list with Anthony Rendon at third and Danny Espinosa at second. When Harper returns, Zimmerman figures to go back to third, Rendon back to second, and Espinosa back to the bench. Zimmerman may also see time at first.

Harper, 21, hit .289/.352/.422 (115 OPS+) with one home run in 22 games before tearing the thumb ligament sliding into third base. He had been pulled from a game and benched by Williams for not running out a tapper back to the mound earlier in the season.

Washington comes into Wednesday's game with a 29-28 record. They are in third place in the NL East, but only 1.5 games back of the Braves for first.

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