Back in the swing of things: Nationals' Bryce Harper homers in 1st at-bat after return from DL

  • Article by: JOSEPH WHITE , AP Sports Writer
  • Updated: July 1, 2013 - 11:20 PM

WASHINGTON — Bryce Harper needed only two pitches to earn himself a curtain call.

Back from the disabled list, the Washington Nationals sparkplug launched a fastball from Yovani Gallardo into the visitors' bullpen for an opposite-field homer Monday night in the first inning against the Milwaukee Brewers.

Harper raised his right arm and pointed to the fans as he finished his familiar sprint around the bases. After lots of high-fives in the dugout, he returned to the top of the steps and gave a thumbs-up to answer the cheers.

Batting third and playing left field, Harper got the benefit of the doubt on the first pitch from Gallardo, holding up just enough for a check-swing to be called a ball.

There was no doubt about the second pitch. The ball cleared the left-field fence by a few feet, a solo shot for Harper's 13th homer of the season and 24th RBI.

"I felt like I was back on opening day," said Harper, who homered in his first two at-bats of the season. "I was trying to get something I could drive. I got a pitch I could handle a little bit and put it where I wanted to."

Harper finished 1 for 4 with a walk in the Nationals' 10-5 victory. He slid hard into second base on a double play in the sixth inning, showing no lingering problems with his knee.

The 20-year-old slugger was reinstated from the 15-day disabled list a few hours before the game, following his recovery from a knee injury that stemmed from a collision with the Dodger Stadium fence. He had been gone so long that manager Davey Johnson wanted to be sure it wasn't a mirage when he saw Harper in the clubhouse.

"I went in there and said, 'Is that really you? Are you OK? Are you ready to go?'" Johnson said. "He shook my hand and said, 'I'm ready.' It seemed like I hadn't seen him in half a year. It seems that long."

Harper missed 31 games with bursitis, diagnosed after he reinjured his left knee several times after he kept trying to play for two weeks following the mishap in Los Angeles on May 13. He pronounced himself fit after going 4 for 11 with a double, a triple and a home run during a four-game rehab assignment last week with Class-A Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg.

"A little swelling, but not much," Harper said. "Nothing to be cautious about. I feel good, and it's to the point where I want to play."

Harper said he would wear padding to protect the knee.

The Nationals improved to 26-19 when Harper plays; they are 16-21 when he doesn't. That adds up to a middling 42-40 mark just past the halfway point for a consensus preseason pick to repeat as NL East champions. He was batting .287 when he went on the DL.

"Not only his bat, but I think the energy he brings, he takes a lot of the focus and he's a competitor," Johnson said. "Just to have that 20-year-old energy running around 100 percent, I'm sure he's still probably going to run into the wall, I'm sure he's going to dive headfirst. ... I don't want to put a damper on that. That's who he is, and that's how he plays the game, and that's great."

The return of Harper was the last thing the struggling Brewers needed. Milwaukee arrived in Washington on a five-game losing streak.

"We'll see after the series how bad of a break it is. ... What it does is it adds a guy who can drive the ball out of the ballpark," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "He can hit any pitch, and you have to be really careful with how you pitch him."

Harper's return puts Johnson closer to the lineup he envisioned at the start of the year, except that Anthony Rendon has replaced the demoted Danny Espinosa at second base. All that's left is for catcher Wilson Ramos to return from a left hamstring injury. Ramos was scheduled to catch seven innings at Potomac on Monday and could return to the major league club as early as Thursday.

Johnson moved Rendon from second to seventh in the batting order to create a left-right-left-right-left top of the order consisting of Denard Span, Jayson Werth, Harper, Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche.

"It's all about matchups late in the ballgame that you want to create," Johnson said.

NOTES: Johnson said LHP Ross Detwiler had a good bullpen session Monday and is on pace to start Wednesday as scheduled. Detwiler had stiffness in his lower back after his last start. ... The Nationals optioned RHP Erik Davis to Triple-A Syracuse to make room for Harper.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Cleveland 86 FINAL
Indiana 93
Washington 81 FINAL
Philadelphia 89
Golden State 113 FINAL
Toronto 89
New York 121 FINAL
Detroit 115
Orlando 88 FINAL
Atlanta 95
Charlotte 98 FINAL
Boston 106
LA Clippers 97 FINAL
Memphis 79
Brooklyn 98 FINAL
Houston 102
Miami 102 FINAL
New Orleans 104
Minnesota 89 FINAL
Chicago 96
Utah 104 FINAL
Denver 82
San Antonio 107 FINAL
Sacramento 96
Milwaukee 93 FINAL
LA Lakers 101
Oklahoma City 112 FINAL
Portland 115
Boston 3 FINAL(OT)
New Jersey 2
Calgary 1 FINAL
NY Islanders 2
Washington 0 FINAL
Carolina 3
Chicago 0 FINAL
Tampa Bay 4
Colorado 5 FINAL(SO)
Dallas 4
Los Angeles 2 FINAL
Anaheim 4
Siena 63 FINAL
Quinnipiac 73
Harvard 49 FINAL
Cornell 57
Penn 69 FINAL
Brown 75
Fairfield 65 FINAL
Canisius 72
Manhattan 75 FINAL
Iona 79
Saint Peters 67 FINAL
Marist 69
Princeton 60 FINAL
Yale 81
Ohio 58 FINAL
Akron 70
Dartmouth 84 FINAL
Columbia 71
Valparaiso 56 FINAL
Cleveland State 53
Louisiana Tech 75 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 88
Seton Hall 77 FINAL
Xavier 60
Cornell 54 FINAL
Harvard 60
Yale 49 FINAL
(14) Princeton 67
Elon 51 FINAL
Drexel 54
Northeastern 47 FINAL
James Madison 82
St Johns 60 FINAL
Butler 49
Creighton 71 FINAL
Georgetown 62
Brown 58 FINAL
Penn 75
Columbia 50 FINAL
Dartmouth 60
Canisius 54 FINAL
Siena 58
St Josephs Brooklyn 35 FINAL
NJIT 78
Western Carolina 86 FINAL
UNC Greensboro 80
Colorado 66 FINAL
Arizona 51
Southern Ill 72 FINAL
Bradley 66
Drake 59 FINAL
Wichita State 80
Indiana State 71 FINAL
Evansville 53
Illinois State 53 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 67
Northern Iowa 70 FINAL
Missouri State 72
Utah 42 FINAL
(10) Arizona State 46
Providence 62 FINAL
Villanova 71
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Which Twins player are you most interested in during spring training?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close