Bryce Harper begins rehab assignment, expects to move around Nationals’ outfield

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Out for the past two months with a torn thumb ligament, Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper began a minor-league rehab assignment Monday night at Single-A.

Harper singled in his first at-bat and later walked before exiting the game after three innings as planned. He played left field, which is where he’s expected to spend most of his time upon rejoining the Nationals, although Harper could also see some action in center field if the team decides to keep using Ryan Zimmerman occasionally in left field rather than third base.

Zimmerman said Monday that he’d prefer to remain in left field but is willing to play third base if that’s where the Nationals need him. Similarly, Harper said after his first rehab game that he’d prefer to remain in one outfield spot full time but is willing to shift around on a game-by-game basis if the Nationals want it that way instead:

I want to get comfortable in one spot. I got in a little bit of trouble last year playing right field and getting hurt. So I think just trying to stay in one spot would be great. But with the outfield we have, I don’t think that’s going to happen. So being able to play left and play center and play right is something that I need down here.

July 1 is Harper’s expected return date for now, so the Nationals have another week to decide what their plan will be.

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Marlins, Giants get into heated beanball war

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You may have heard that Giants closer Hunter Strickland broke his hand punching a door in frustration after Monday night’s subpar performance. He’ll miss six to eight weeks as a result. Strickland came in to protect a 4-2 lead but ended up giving up three runs. The tying run was knocked in by Lewis Brinson on a single to right field. Brinson moved to third base on a go-ahead single by Miguel Rojas, which prompted manager Bruce Bochy to take Strickland out of the game.

On his way to the dugout, Strickland started chirping at Brinson. Much like Bryce Harper and Strickland, Brinson and Strickland have a bit of a history. Last Thursday, Brinson handed Strickland a blown save with a sacrifice fly to deep center field. Brinson was happy to help his team tie the game, pumping his fast and saying, “Let’s go” at no one in particular. That rubbed Strickland the wrong way. Everything seems to rub Strickland the wrong way.

During Tuesday night’s game, Giants starter Dereck Rodriguez threw at Brinson with the first pitch, a 92 MPH fastball. Home plate umpire Andy Fletcher issued warnings to both benches. Manager Don Mattingly came out to argue, suggesting that his team hadn’t done anything wrong so it was unfair to essentially take the inside part of the plate away from his pitchers. On his way back to the dugout, Mattingly could be seen saying, “You’re next” to catcher Buster Posey.

The Giants scored twice in the bottom of the second against Dan Straily to extend their lead to 3-0. Posey came to the plate with a runner on first base and one out. Straily hit Posey with a 91 MPH fastball on the first pitch, prompting ejections of both Straily and Mattingly. Posey was hit on the arm. If the pitch had come in a bit lower and hit Posey on the wrist or hand, Posey might have had to go on the disabled list for a couple months. Or if the pitch had hit Posey a couple of inches higher, in the head, then who knows what would have happened.

Things calmed down from there, thankfully. The two clubs have one more game against each other in San Francisco on Wednesday and that will be the final time they meet this season. If anything further is going to happen — and hopefully, nothing happens — then it will come tomorrow.

Straily will almost certainly be facing a suspension and a fine, as will Mattingly. It’s less clear if Rodriguez and/or Bochy will be reprimanded for throwing at Brinson, even though it was fairly obvious the pitch was intentional. Regardless, the punishments amount to just one missed start for the pitchers, which isn’t nearly enough of a detriment to deter beanball wars.