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Eaton ahead of schedule, not ruling out return

Outfielder has progressed to light activity in recent weeks; calls Harper 'a freak'
MLB.com @JamalCollier

WASHINGTON -- Nationals outfielder Adam Eaton was sitting in the dugout watching when Bryce Harper slipped over the first-base bag and fell violently to the ground, and like so many Nationals fans, he was sick to his stomach.

Just months after he tore the ACL in his right knee on a similar play, Eaton could not bring himself to watch. He waited to greet Harper with a huge hug when he made it back into the clubhouse. So count Eaton among those amazed that Harper came away with only a bone bruise in his left knee on a play where many feared the worst.

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WASHINGTON -- Nationals outfielder Adam Eaton was sitting in the dugout watching when Bryce Harper slipped over the first-base bag and fell violently to the ground, and like so many Nationals fans, he was sick to his stomach.

Just months after he tore the ACL in his right knee on a similar play, Eaton could not bring himself to watch. He waited to greet Harper with a huge hug when he made it back into the clubhouse. So count Eaton among those amazed that Harper came away with only a bone bruise in his left knee on a play where many feared the worst.

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"It really just shows how much of a freak he is," Eaton said. "You watch the way he went over that and pole-vaulted himself by his leg and landed on his collarbone and all he comes away with was a little bone bruise? It's unbelievable.

"I have a lot to do in the offseason to get as strong as he is, so next time I do something stupid like that, I don't break instantaneously."

Eaton continues to be ahead of schedule as his recovery from a torn ACL reaches Week 14. Over the past two weeks, he has been able to do some light baseball activity, including jogging, throwing and swinging a bat, although Eaton said all of it is essentially in slow motion at the moment. He is moving around without crutches and no longer requires a brace on his knee.

With the progress he is making, Eaton is not ruling out a potential return this season. It is still a bit of a longshot, but Eaton wants to put himself in a position where at the end of the season or some point in the postseason, he could be ready to help the Nationals make a deep postseason run.

"I'm going to give myself the best chance whatever I can as humanly possibly for my knee," Eaton said. "I have to listen to my knee at the end of the day, my knee is going to tell me where it's going to be a go or not.

"I'm going to worry about putting myself in the best-case scenario. Work my rear end off every single day and let the cards fall where they may."

The Nationals have been hammered by injuries, especially in the outfield. Their entire Opening Day starting outfield is currently on the DL as Eaton is joined by Harper (left knee) and left fielder Jayson Werth (left foot). Despite the injuries, Werth and Harper are expected to be healthy in time for the postseason. Plus, the Nationals have received solid production from Eaton's replacements in center field between Michael A. Taylor and Brian Goodwin.

• Goodwin to DL; De Aza recalled

And while Eaton acknowledged he is ahead of schedule, he is still not running full speed and has not been required to perform under any intense conditions. So while he takes the small victories as they come, he admits it has been a struggle mentally to get through the long rehab.

"It's actually more challenging now, because I've had really good days where I feel normal and I want to hold on to those days and bottle them up and be able to repeat it," Eaton said. "Just as any athlete, you always want more you always want perfection, you always want to be the best at whatever you're doing and that's the same thing with therapy ... you're never satisfied.

"That's kind of the vicious circle of the mentality that I have. So great, grand and wonderful that we're hitting and doing all this stuff …but now I get greedy."

Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

Washington Nationals, Adam Eaton