If the Nationals can keep up their current pace in the tight National League east race, they could get a much needed boost when July comes around. With Ryan Zimmerman already having an impact with his return, Washington remains one and a half games back of first place Atlanta. They are just one game behind second place Miami.
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James Wagner of the Washington Post reports that the Nationals are hoping to have dynamic outfielder Bryce Harper back in the lineup on July 1st. That, however, is an optimistic return date by manager Matt Williams, says Wagner, as Harper has not participated in any rigorous baseball activity. Harper went on the disabled list on April 26 with a torn UCL in his left thumb after sliding headfirst into third base. Since then, he has had surgery to repair the ligament with a projected down period at the time of 6-8 weeks.
Harper has been taking part in rehabilitation and has been keeping himself in shape, although the 21-year old still has not fielded or hit a baseball. Williams says that his outfielder is understandably impatient with the process.
"“He’s itching and pacing,” Williams said. “It’s one of those things where he’s 21 years old and if it doesn’t heal right it can affect him long term. We want to make sure he’s good before he can get back out here. We don’t know yet. I’d like to see back by the first of July. That’s a good target but we just don’t know how everything else goes.”"
The Nationals have been doing alright in the interim, using Kevin Frandsen, Scott Hairston, Nate McLouth and Jayson Werth in right field. With Ryan Zimmerman now an option at left field, the possible rotations for the other outfield spot can open up a little more.