Welcome back, Bryce Harper.
The Washington Nationals 20-year-old dynamo returned from the disabled list Monday and in his first at-bat, he put a hurting on a ball. He launched a homer to left-center field off Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Yovani Gallardo, perhaps the best "I'm Back" announcement Harper could make. Fans responded and gave Harper a curtain call afterward.
He missed 31 games after injuring his knee in that brutal collision with the Dodger Stadium right-field wall. The Nats are 16-21 without Harper in the lineup this season, and 25-19 when he lays. If these 41-40 Nationals — whose 2013 expectations are much higher than .500 ball — want to make a summer run at the first-place Atlanta Braves, they're going to need a healthy and potent Harper.
Before the game, Nats manager Davey Johnson talked about what it means to have Harper back in the clubhouse. Via the AP:
''Not only his bat, but I think the energy he brings, he takes a lot of the focus and he's a competitor,'' Johnson said. ''Just to have that 20-year-old energy running around 100 percent, I'm sure he's still probably going to run into the wall, I'm sure he's going to dive headfirst. ... I don't want to put a damper on that. That's who he is, and that's how he plays the game, and that's great.''
Before Bryce's at-bat, one of the Nats TV announcers said, "Maybe he can pretend it's opening day and just homer his first couple of times up." How omnipotent. The scene after Harper's first-inning homer actually looked a lot like opening day, when Harper homered in his first at-bat and earned a curtain call afterward.
After Bryce's comeback homer, this has to be how Nats fans are feeling: