Harper wants to give first base a chance
Adams set for Minor League rehab game, could return Wednesday
WASHINGTON -- The Nationals have been unafraid to try new things with Bryce Harper this season. He has batted leadoff for the first time since 2013. He has played center field regularly -- where he started again Monday night -- for the first time in three years. Could first base be the latest new position for Harper?
Harper fielded grounders and took instructions from first-base coach Tim Bogar on the field at Nationals Park hours before their game Monday against the Red Sox. In fact, Harper has been telling manager Dave Martinez lately that he wanted to play first base.
However, Martinez said he would not expect to start Harper in a game at first base, although he left open the possibility of playing him there in a pinch.
"Just kind of him getting outside of his comfort zone and letting him do something different," Martinez said. "He's actually not bad."
Harper at first base would seem to offer a solution to the Nationals' outfield logjam where Harper, Juan Soto, Adam Eaton and Michael A. Taylor are battling for playing time. But the Nationals have a pair of first basemen close to returning from the DL in Matt Adams and Ryan Zimmerman.
Bogar also downplayed the significance of Harper playing first base, saying he "wouldn't read much into it" even though he and Martinez were both impressed by how Harper looked at first base despite having never played there in his professional career.
"Here's a guy that, love him to death, because he'll do whatever it takes for this team to win," Martinez said. "That's part of who Bryce is."
After sim game, Adams to begin rehab assignment
Adams will play a rehab game with Double-A Harrisburg on Tuesday after he, Zimmerman and Matt Wieters played in a simulated game Monday afternoon at Nationals Park.
Adams, who Martinez said could return Wednesday, has been on the disabled list since June 19 with a fractured left index finger. Adams is hitting .275 with 13 home runs this season. The 29-year-old's return would give the Nationals another steady first baseman, in addition to Daniel Murphy and Mark Reynolds, and would provide Murphy more flexibility to ease back into the field from injury and play second base.
The timetables for Zimmerman and Wieters aren't as clear. Zimmerman hasn't played since May 9 due to a right oblique strain, but Martinez said the 33-year-old could begin a rehab assignment soon. Zimmerman, who was hitting .217 in 33 games before his setback, said he feels good and just needs more live at-bats.
Wieters, who's been on the disabled list since May 11 with a right hamstring strain, hopes to return before the All-Star break. Wieters said hitting and catching hasn't been a problem, but the 32-year-old wants to feel healthy running at game speed.
"Getting these guys back fully healthy, that's where I want to be," Martinez said. "When we get all these guys back, we need that to be a full go. We need to get going."