The first three innings went well for Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals, who hit a double, drew a walk and scored a run Tuesday night in the first game of an injury rehab assignment. But he won't be hurrying back to the major leagues just yet.
Playing for the Class A Potomac Nationals in Woodbridge, Va., — who sold out for the first time this season — Harper went three innings in left field before being pulled as scheduled. He hasn't played since May 26, injuring his left knee by infamously running into the outfield fence at Dodger Stadium on May 13. Harper has missed 25 straight games, but he played in a familiar way to his old manager. Via the Associated Press:
"He looks the same old Harp," said Potomac manager Brian Daubach, who also had Harper at Hagerstown in 2011.
Despite his baseball maturity for a 20-year-old, Harper still has a careles moment appropriate for someone with his limited experience. After he hit his double, Harper was picked off second by Myrtle Beach pitcher Blake Schwartz. Daubauch liked Harper's aggressiveness in playing the field, but he also liked the selectivity he showed in another plate appearance, which ended in seven pitches with a walk. Daubauch called that "a good sign."
Harper wore a knee brace under his uniform — perhaps like the one he received during a visit to Dr. James Andrews — though it wasn't particularly visible.
Going forward, Nationals manager Davey Johnson laid out the plan for Harper:
... Johnson, speaking before Washington's game against Arizona, said Harper likely won't rejoin the Nationals this weekend when they travel to New York.
"I doubt if he'll be able to make it that quick," Johnson said, pointing to a series starting next Monday in Washington against Milwaukee for Harper's likely return. "He'll probably do three or four innings tonight, and then, if there's no problem, gradually up it."
Even though the Nats have struggled with a .500 record for most of this season after winning 98 games in 2012, there's no sense in rushing back the franchise's best player. There's this pennant race to consider, along with the next one and the one after that.