Phillies vs. Nationals: Will Bryce Harper return to Phillies' lineup this weekend? Stay tuned

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Will Harper return to Phillies' lineup this weekend? Stay tuned originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

There was a Bryce Harper sighting at Citizens Bank Park on Friday afternoon. He popped out of the dugout about 3:30 p.m. and did some throwing and light fielding drills before disappearing back down the dugout steps as an approaching thunderstorm darkened the skies. 

Harper was not activated from the injured list for Friday night’s series opener against the Washington Nationals. 

Saturday or Sunday perhaps?

We'll continue to talk about it,” Phillies manager Joe Girardi said. “We'll have to see how his work goes today.” 

Harper has not played since May 22 because of a left forearm contusion, which was the result of his getting hit by a pitch in St. Louis on April 28. Harper was actually hit in the face with a 97-mph fastball that night. Amazingly, he suffered no facial injuries. The ball, however, caromed off his cheek and hit his forearm/wrist with some force. Harper missed a few days then returned May 2. He played in 15 games and hit just .211 with 26 strikeouts in 57 at-bats before shutting it down and eventually going on the 10-day disabled list. 

“There is progress,” Girardi said of Harper’s condition. “He is hitting. We like, for the most part, the direction that he's going in.”

The Phillies will play eight games on this homestand – three against Washington, three against Atlanta and two against the New York Yankees next weekend. It’s difficult to imagine Harper not being ready to go at some point during the homestand, maybe sooner rather than later. 

Shortstop Didi Gregorius remains on the IL, as well, as he recovers from a bone bruise on his right elbow. Gregorius has begun hitting, but the injury still causes him some discomfort when he swings and misses, Girardi said. Gregorius is not as close to being ready as Harper and could require some at-bats in the minor leagues before he’s activated.