Nats slugger Harper could return from knee injury Monday

NEW YORK (AP) - Bryce Harper could come off the disabled list and return to the Washington Nationals' lineup Monday night in the opener of a three-game series at Philadelphia.

"We're still trying to make up our minds," manager Dusty Baker said after Sunday's victory over the New York Mets. "So I will let you know (Monday)."

Harper has been sidelined with a bone bruise in his left knee since slipping on a wet base while running out a grounder Aug. 12. Before getting hurt, the star slugger was batting .326 with 29 home runs and 87 RBIs in 106 games.

"When you put his bat in the lineup, man our lineup is scary," Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer said. "We can score runs with the best of them. Now we are all kind of looking forward to him getting back as soon as possible."

Washington has already clinched the NL East title and home-field advantage in a best-of-five Division Series that will begin Oct. 6. But there's only a week left in the regular season for Harper to test his knee and get comfortable at the plate before the playoffs start.

While medical exams ruled out the club's worst fears of a serious knee injury, the 24-year-old Harper has missed the last 41 games.

"I think he is itching at getting back out on the field," Scherzer said. "Hopefully, he can come back and get his timing back because that is going to be the hardest thing for him."

If the 2015 NL MVP is able to return, Washington will have every player that appeared in its opening-day lineup except for outfielder Adam Eaton, who was lost for the season when he tore a knee ligament April 29.

With minor league seasons already done, Harper's only place to rehab would be at instructional league, set to start Monday in Florida.

The five-time All-Star outfielder took batting practice Friday at Citi Field and participated in a simulated game Saturday, facing a pair of minor league pitchers.

"Biggest thing for me is just trying to see where my timing's at, see how it feels," Harper said Saturday. "It takes time to get back in the swing of things."

At the time of Harper's injury, Washington had a 69-45 record and was leading the NL East by 14½ games. The team easily went on to wrap up the division crown, winning 25 of 41.

With the Nationals on their final road trip of the regular season, players dressed up as characters from the popular series "Game of Thrones" as they prepared to leave New York on Sunday. Harper dressed up as Jon Snow.

© 2017 Associated Press


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