Bryce Harper, Davey Johnson differ on return timing

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Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper, recovering from bursitis in his left knee, thinks that beginning his rehab assignment with Class-A Potomac on Tuesday is a day or two too early. Via MLB.com’s Tom Schad:

“Tuesday, that’s kind of early,” Harper said. “I’m thinking Wednesday or Thursday maybe. I’m not sure. We’ll see how I feel. If I feel good, then I’ll go play. If I feel something isn’t right, then I’m not going to go play. It depends on how I’m feeling.”

Manager Davey Johnson wants to get Harper back in action sooner rather than later.

“When a player starts playing, it’s really up to me, what I think they need. Not up to the player,” Johnson said. “I’m always trying to do what’s best for the player. But at the same time, it’s my job to know when they’re ready and when they’re not.

“He’s probably worried about timing and everything being letter perfect. All that changes if you’re in Potomac. You may never get your timing there because it’s a whole new ballgame there, guys don’t have command as well as they do up here, and there’s a big variation in how they pitch to guys.”

Schad also writes that Harper wants to play in six or seven rehab games before rejoining his teammates in Washington.

It is refreshing to see a player, particularly one as young as Harper (20), err on the side of caution. Too often, we see players come back too early from an injury or choose to play through the pain. In fact, Angel Pagan recently refused surgery to fix his injured hamstring and only exacerbated the problem.

Nick Williams has been trying to sell Jake Arrieta on the Phillies

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CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury reports that Phillies outfielder Nick Williams has been working out daily with free agent starter Jake Arrieta in Austin. The right-hander, who won the 2015 National League Cy Young Award, still remains teamless with spring training less than a month away. Williams has been trying to sell Arrieta on joining the Phillies.

Williams said of Arrieta, “He loves it here [Austin]. He has told me he likes working with young guys. I’m like, ‘All right, come on up.’ But I’m not writing the check. I don’t know what he wants. I don’t really dig into that because I’m not really in his position.”

On GM Matt Klentak’s hunt for pitching help, new manager Gabe Kapler said, “The pursuit is very real. I have a lot of trust that we’ll either go in [to spring training] with a new toy or we will pass on the opportunity because we’re better off giving this collection of pitchers a really healthy look because we thought that we could go acquire that piece a little bit later on this season or in the offseason next year.”

Arrieta, who turns 32 years old in March, went 14-10 with a 3.53 ERA and a 163/55 K/BB ratio in 168 1/3 innings last season with the Cubs. The Cubs, Cardinals, and Brewers have been linked to Arrieta this month.

Presently, the Phillies’ starting rotation figures to include Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff, and Vince Velasquez along with some combination of Nick Pivetta, Ben Lively, Zach Eflin, Mark Leiter, and Jake Thompson. Arrieta would certainly amount to a big upgrade in the starting rotation and could make the Phillies a more attractive landing spot for Bryce Harper or Manny Machado, who become free agents after the 2018 campaign. The Phillies are expected to be in the mix for either or both players.