Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports
Bryce Harper preparing to bat for the Single-A Advanced Potomac Nationals.
Bryce Harper claims Mickey Mantle as his childhood idol. But another Yankees legend may have best described the role of a player of Harper's caliber.
Reggie Jackson summed up his importance to the team by saying, "I'm the straw that stirs the drink."
The same can be said for Harper. He is hitting .287 in 150 at-bats for the Washington Nationals this season, with seven doubles, one triple and 12 home runs. Harper has 23 RBI with 29 runs scored, with a .386 on-base percentage and a .587 slugging percentage.
To demonstrate his importance to the Nationals, Harper has only played in 44 of the Nats' 78 games this season, and he is still second on the team in home runs. Plus, he leads the team in both on-base percentage and slugging percentage of those with a minimum 100 at-bats.
Harper has not played since May 26. That was his last game before going on the 15-day disabled list with bursitis in his left knee. Harper received a cortisone injection on June 11, and the knee was immobilized to ensure proper rest and healing.
This week, Harper began his rehab assignment. First, he played two games with the Single-A Advanced Potomac Nationals, on June 25 and June 26. Then, he played one game with the Double-A Harrisburg Senators on June 27. After the game with Harrisburg, Chase Hughes of CSNWashington.com reported that Harper is ready to return to the big club:
Over his three rehab games, Harper has homered, drawn walks, and done just about everything he can on the base paths. He’s gone from first to third, first to home, he’s slid into base head first, he’s even slid leading with the left knee. Baserunning was said to be the key to Harper getting the clearance to return to the Nationals. If that was the most important test, he seems to have passed. In Thursday’s outing Harper went 2-for-4 with a two-RBI triple, a walk and a single. He looked every bit the player he usually is at full health, after playing two games in Potomac that tested his knee in a variety of ways.
Hughes stated that Harper is aiming for a Monday return against the Milwaukee Brewers. But with little left to prove on his rehab assignment, Harper could join the Nationals this weekend as they face the New York Mets in New York.
Whenever he ultimately returns, the Nationals will love to have Harper's bat and energy back in the lineup. And Harper will be delighted to find that the Nats lineup is much more potent than when he left.