Bryce Harper rejoins the Nationals, pushing Ryan Zimmerman back to third base

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As expected, the Nationals have activated Bryce Harper from the disabled list for tonight’s game against the Rockies after the outfielder missed two months with a torn ligament in his left thumb that required surgery.

Harper finished up his minor-league rehab assignment by smacking three homers in a Double-A game and went 9-for-14 (.643) with four homers on the rehab stint overall.

Harper will resume starting every day in left field, where Ryan Zimmerman has been playing since returning from the disabled list himself in early June. Zimmerman has played well there defensively considering he was a career-long third baseman and spoke last week about actually preferring to remain in the outfield because of his chronic shoulder problems, but he hit just .198 in 25 games as a left fielder and the Nationals have said all along that he’ll move back to the infield once Harper is ready.

There could be some drama and tough decisions on the horizon if Zimmerman’s throwing issues or shoulder problems resurface, but for now the Nationals are at full strength with a 43-38 record and half the season remaining.

Must-Click Link: “Skunk in the Outfield”

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Sam Miller of ESPN has an amazingly fantastic story today. It’s about a high school tournament baseball game in Rhode Island in 2006. It’s not your typical game story or oral history or look-to-the-past-to-see-the-future kind of thing. The only nod to such conventionality is mention of the fact that former Red Sox prospect Ryan Westmoreland played in the game. That’s mostly a footnote.

No, the article is about a trick play — “skunk in the outfield” — concocted by one of the coaches. About how it played out and what went into it before, during and after it happened. Along the way Miller talks about the nature of trick plays and offers a good three dozen amazing insights into the psychology of young baseball players and the strategy of baseball as it unfolds in real time.

Each of these observations could anchor its own story but here they form a grand mosaic. And that’s only mild hyperbole, if in fact it’s hyperbole at all. Indeed, most treatments of such a play would be some video clip with a “wow, look what happened here!” sort of couching. Miller gives a more than ten-year-old trick play an epic treatment that is every bit as enlightening as it is entertaining.

Set some time aside to read this today.

Rubby De La Rosa to undergo a second Tommy John Surgery

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This is unfortunate: Diamondbacks reliever Rubby De La Rosa will undergo Tommy John surgery. This will be the second Tommy John procedure of his career, the first coming back in 2011.

De La Rosa has had elbow  issues for his entire career. Last year his UCL was barking again and he underwent stem cell therapy to try to avoid a second surgery, but it obviously hasn’t worked out. He’s pitched in only nine games this year, allowing four earned runs in seven and two-thirds innings, striking out 12.

I first saw De La Rosa in spring training in 2011. I thought his stuff was pretty phenomenal and figured he’d be a good one. Great stuff is often a function of heavy strain on an elbow, however, and pitchers breaking is, unfortunately, the rule in baseball far more than the exception.

He’ll miss a year at least. We likely won’t see him until spring of 2019, most likely on a minor league deal.