Bryce Harper has stitches removed from surgically repaired thumb

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Bryce Harper still has a ways to go before he rejoins the Nationals, but he’s moving in the right direction. Per Dan Kolko of MASN Sports, the 21-year-old outfielder had the stitches removed from his surgically-repaired left thumb today.

Harper, who had surgery on April 29 to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his thumb, has not been cleared to begin real rehab work. The timeline still calls for him to be sidelined until around early July, so the Nationals might have to make due without him for another two months. Nate McLouth has been asked to be the primary fill-in, but he entered tonight’s action batting just .078/.254/.157 over his first 64 plate appearances this season. Ouch.

Harper was batting .289/.352/.422 with one home run and nine RBI in 22 games prior to the injury.

J.D. Martinez tells teams he prefers an outfield role

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Free agent outfielder/slugger J.D. Martinez is reportedly seeking an outfield gig, says Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald. According to Silverman’s sources, Martinez’s suitors have been informed that the veteran slugger would give preference to teams that can offer a corner outfield spot, rather than a DH-only role.

That could spell trouble for the Red Sox, who appear to be Martinez’s biggest suitors so far this offseason. Outfielders Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi are firmly established at the corners, and prior reports from club president Dave Dombrowski suggest that center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. is not going anywhere anytime soon (thereby eliminating the possibility of reshuffling the outfield). The DH spot is still wide open for Martinez, who doesn’t seem to be totally closed off to the idea, but any full-time or part-time role on the field is likely off the table at this point.

Of course, the Red Sox aren’t the only ones pursuing Martinez’s services this winter. The 30-year-old slugger has been linked to both the Diamondbacks and Giants in weeks past, and while they have the roster flexibility to accommodate his preferences, they’ll need to clear another massive hurdle: the seven-year, $250 million contract he’s said to be seeking. Both clubs will need to get creative to make such a deal work. The Diamondbacks are rumored to be shopping right-hander Zack Greinke in an attempt to free up some room on their payroll for Martinez, while the Giants appear more inclined to scour the trade market for outfield help than shell out cash for another hefty contract in free agency.