Bryce Harper was 1 for 1 with a double and a walk in his first-ever start for the Class-A Advanced Potomac Nationals in the 20-year-old outfielder's first rehab outing. Harper had been sidelined since he went down with bursitis in his left knee in late May. Tonight's game in Pfitzner Stadium in Woodbridge, VA saw Harper take the field for the first time since May 26th, when the accumulated damage to his knee after a series of collisions with walls and hard slides finally forced the Nationals' 2010 no.1 overall pick to take a break. A PRP injection and cortisone shot administered when Harper traveled to see Dr. James Andrews in Florida apparently helped the recovery process.
Bryce Harper done for the day after three innings: 1 for 1, double, walk & run. Ran hard on the bases. Knee didn't appear to bother him.— James Wagner (@JamesWagnerWP) June 26, 2013
Harper doubled the first time up, taking 21-year-old Texas Rangers' prospect Alec Asher to left, but he got picked off by the pitcher in the next at bat. Harper walked in his second at bat, stole third with two out after a Jason Martinson single had moved him to second and then scored on a single by Adrian Nieto. Harper was replaced in the outfield after the third as planned as he gradually works his way up back to playing full games on the knee.
After the game Harper wrote the following on his personal Twitter account:
Had a great time playing in Potomac tonight! Great crowds and just a great atmosphere! So blessed to be back! Felt great! #PNats— Bryce Harper (@Bharper3407) June 26, 2013
The P-Nats' home was predictably sold out for Harper's first game with the Nats' High-A affiliate, with a crowd of 8,495 turning out to see Harper and his Potomac teammates beat the Myrtle Beach Pelicans 7-5. On his way through the Nationals' system, the Nats' outfielder skipped Potomac, jumping from Low-A Hagerstown to Double-A in his first pro season.
In 44 games and 178 plate appearances before Harper was placed on the DL, he had a .287/.386/.587 line with seven doubles and 12 home runs for the Nationals. After the series in which he initially injured his knee in Atlanta, however, Harper had just a .216/.328/.412 line before finally deciding to let the injury heal.
Before the big league Nationals played tonight in the nation's capital, Nats' manager Davey Johnson told reporters, including the Washington Post's James Wagner, that Harper wasn't likely to make it back to the majors in time for this weekend's series with the Mets in New York, but he could, if there are no setbacks, return as early as next week when they start a four-game series at home against Milwaukee.