UPDATE: Monday, July 1, at 7:15 p.m. ET by Tom Kinslow
Bryce Harper's 1st AB off the DL: Opposite-field HR. #Nats Park erupts.— Mark Zuckerman (@ZuckermanCSN) July 1, 2013
The team confirmed the star's return on its official Twitter feed.
Washington has been without its star outfielder since May 26, when Harper exited a game against the Philadelphia Phillies with an apparent knee injury.
Harper plays as hard as anyone in the game, but on May 13 against the Los Angeles Dodgers, that was a major disadvantage. A.J. Ellis hit a deep fly ball to right field and Harper went back to make the play, but didn’t realize how close he was to the wall. Harper went face-first into the scoreboard and would leave the game.
The outfielder only missed a pair of games before returning to the Nationals lineup on May 16. Everything was fine until he took the field against the Phillies on May 26 and he really started to test his knee.
Harper hit a ball up the middle in the bottom of the first and sprinted to beat the throw. The throw was way off target and Harper took off for second, reaching safely. With Ryan Zimmerman batting, Harper took off for third base and dove headfirst into the bag. He got up and instantly tended to his knee, but would stay in the game.
After drawing a walk in the seventh inning, Harper trotted to first base gingerly and was replaced with a pinch runner once he reached the bag.
Harper sat for a few days before the Nationals decided to place the outfielder on the 15-day disabled list. Amanda Comak of The Washington Times reported it was due to knee bursitis.
Harper said a few days later his knee wasn’t improving, but hoped to return soon, per Zuckerman:
Then, everyone’s hearts dropped when Comak reported that Harper would visit Dr. James Andrews, who tends to handle the more severe injuries in the game. Andrews administered a pair of injections to ease Harper's discomfort, per Comak.
Harper rested for a while before beginning a rehab assignment with Single-A Potomac on June 25. In Harper’s second rehab game, he hit a home run, per James Wagner of The Washington Post:
Bryce Harper says no improvement so far with his knee, hoping to resume baseball activities by end of week and return 6/11.— Mark Zuckerman (@ZuckermanCSN) June 2, 2013
Harper played in Double-A Harrisburg on June 27, and prior to being moved up to Triple-A Syracuse, the Nationals felt that he was healthy enough to come back to Washington.
Bryce Harper done for night in second rehab game: 1 for 3 with a homer. Three at-bats over five innings as DH. Foul ball hit right foot.— James Wagner (@JamesWagnerWP) June 27, 2013
Bryce Harper will visit Dr. James Andrews on Monday for another opinion in his swollen left knee. Not improving like they hoped.— Amanda Comak (@acomak) June 6, 2013
Before the injury, Harper was playing well for the Nationals. In 44 games, the outfielder was hitting .287/.386/.587 with 12 home runs, 23 RBI and 29 runs. Washington has struggled to stay afloat without the 2012 NL Rookie of the Year on the field, and is currently 6.5 games behind the Braves in the NL East.