Bryce Harper is aiming to rejoin the Nationals on July 1

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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.

Astros acquire Aledmys Díaz from Blue Jays

Aledmys Diaz
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The Astros have acquired shortstop Aledmys Díaz from the Blue Jays in exchange for minor league right-hander Trent Thornton, the teams announced Saturday.

Díaz, 28, was originally acquired by the Blue Jays last winter in a swap for minor leaguer J.B. Woodman. He spent the entirety of his 2018 campaign in Toronto, where he slashed .263/.303/.453 with a .756 OPS and career-best 18 home runs through 452 plate appearances. While Díaz spent the bulk of his year filling in for an injured Troy Tulowitzki at short, he has experience at second and third base and may prove useful to the Astros as an extra outfield option, too.

Per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, Díaz will serve as protection if the Astros lose shortstop/utility player Marwin González to free agency this winter. González did not receive a qualifying offer from the club this month and has reportedly drawn interest from 29 of 30 clubs in the league.

Thornton, 25, was selected by the Astros during the fifth round of the 2015 draft. The right-hander was promoted to Triple-A Fresno in 2017 and has been up-and-down since then, though 2018 saw some modest improvements across the board as he turned in a 9-8 record through 22 starts with a 4.42 ERA, 2.2 BB/9 and 8.8 SO/9 through 124 1/3 innings. He was one of several minor league players the Astros would have needed to protect in advance of the Rule 5 Draft on Tuesday.