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.

Video: Jake Arrieta hits a 465-foot home run off of Zack Greinke

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Jake Arrieta‘s bat is in midseason form already. The Cubs’ ace swatted a solo home run to center field off of Zack Greinke in Thursday afternoon’s Grapefruit League exhibition game, his first homer of the spring.

The blast went 465 feet, according to MLB.com’s Daren Willman.

Arrieta has hit two home runs in each of the past two seasons. Madison Bumgarner (eight) and Noah Syndergaard (four) are the only other pitchers to match or exceed his output in that department.

Greinke, meanwhile, is hoping to bounce back after a miserable 2016 season. He finished with an uncharacteristic 4.37 ERA in 26 starts in his first year with the Diamondbacks.

Luis Valbuena to miss four to six weeks with a strained right hamstring

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Angels first baseman Luis Valbuena will miss the next four to six weeks with a strained right hamstring, Pedro Moura of the Los Angeles Times reports.

Valbuena, 31, signed a two-year, $15 million contract with the Angels in January and was on track to get the lion’s share of the playing time at first base. While he’s out, however, C.J. Cron will handle first base on a regular basis. When Valbeuna returns, the two will likely form a platoon.

Last year with the Astros, Valbuena hit a solid .260/.357/.459 with 13 home runs and 40 RBI in 342 plate appearances.