Bryce Harper has not yet been cleared to catch fly balls or take swings six weeks after surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left thumb, but Mark Zuckerman of CSNWashington.com reports that the Nationals are hoping to have him back in the lineup by July 1.
Nationals manager Matt Williams told Zuckerman that July 1 “would be a good target, but we just don’t know … it depends on how everything else goes.” He then added that Harper is “itching” to return, but the team is taking things cautiously with the 21-year-old.
Whenever he does return Harper’s presence could cause the Nationals to shift Ryan Zimmerman back to the infield after bringing him off from the disabled list as a left fielder this week. Zimmerman has also been taking ground balls at first base recently and an outfield with Harper, Denard Span, and Jayson Werth wouldn’t leave much room for him.
Of course, that’s at least 3-4 weeks away and these things often sort themselves out.
ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports that the Mariners are among the teams that have contacted the Reds about outfielder Jay Bruce. The Mariners enter play Wednesday 51-48, six games out of first place in the AL West and 4.5 games out of the second AL Wild Card slot. Adding an impact bat like Bruce could help in their effort to reach the postseason.
Norichika Aoki and Seth Smith have handled the bulk of the playing time in left field. While Smith has hit well, Aoki has not. Bruce came into Wednesday’s game against the Giants batting .271/.324/.567 with 24 home runs and a league-best 78 RBI.
Bruce can become a free agent after the season if his controlling team declines his $13 million club option for the 2017 season by paying him a $1 million buyout. If he’s traded mid-season, his new team won’t be able to make him a qualifying offer, so the club option may be more enticing than it looks at first glance.
A third-inning two-run home run by Adam Rosales off of R.A. Dickey put the Padres up 2-0, but it also helped the Padres tie a National League record. The Padres have homered in 25 consecutive games, matching the 1998 Braves, the 1994 Tigers, and the 1941 Yankees. The major league record is 27, set by the 2002 Rangers.
The Padres hit three in total on Wednesday in an 8-4 victory against the Blue Jays. One of those dingers was an eighth-inning solo shot by rookie Alex Dickerson, who has now homered in four consecutive games himself. The one he hit on Monday is worth watching, as it got into the upper deck at the Rogers Centre.
As the Padres recently traded Melvin Upton, Jr. to the Jays, Dickerson is likely going to see regular playing time. That’s especially true if he keeps hitting like this.