Bryce Harper Returns to Nationals For First Time Since Knee Injury

Benjamin KleinContributor IIIJuly 1, 2013

Bryce Harper is finally back with the Washington Nationals


UPDATE: Monday, July 1, at 7:15 p.m. ET by Tom Kinslow

Harper didn't take long to remind Nationals fans what he can do at the plate, per Mark Zuckerman of Comcast Sportsnet.
---End of update---

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:

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.

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.