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Slumping Harper gets 1st break from lineup

MLB.com @JamalCollier

SAN DIEGO -- Nationals manager Dave Martinez met with Bryce Harper in his office after Tuesday night's game, his slugger mired in a slump, to discuss whether he would like a day off. After initially deciding against it, they ultimately decided it was time for a rest.

Harper was out of the Nationals' starting lineup for Wednesday night's series finale against the Padres after playing in each of the team's first 37 games. The day off coincides with Harper being hitless in his last 19 at-bats, tied for the longest hitless drought of his career.

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SAN DIEGO -- Nationals manager Dave Martinez met with Bryce Harper in his office after Tuesday night's game, his slugger mired in a slump, to discuss whether he would like a day off. After initially deciding against it, they ultimately decided it was time for a rest.

Harper was out of the Nationals' starting lineup for Wednesday night's series finale against the Padres after playing in each of the team's first 37 games. The day off coincides with Harper being hitless in his last 19 at-bats, tied for the longest hitless drought of his career.

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"I'm a big believer in rest. I've been wanting to give him a day off," Martinez said. "He's just so good. It's hard."

Harper moved to the leadoff spot eight games ago in an effort to get him more pitches in the strike zone. The move has worked and he is getting more pitches to hit, but he has not been able to punish opponents' mistakes. Since he started hitting at the top of the lineup, he is batting .182 (6-for-33), although four of his six hits have been home runs.

And with a left-hander on the mound Wednesday night in Padres rookie Joey Lucchesi, Martinez thought this was the perfect chance to give Harper a break.

"He's hit the ball incredibly hard over the last few days, he really has," Martinez said. "Keep squaring balls up, they're not going to catch them all."

Harper had been the last of the Nationals' regulars to receive a day off from the starting lineup. While Martinez left the door open to Harper pinch-hitting later in the game, he said he wanted Harper to take a full mental day off prior to the game without batting practice and to get off his feet.

After posting a .986 OPS during the season's first month, Harper has slowed down a bit lately with an .804 OPS to start the month of May. So with an eye on the long haul, Martinez decided to rest Harper.

"For me it's not only about 162, it's about 163-64-65 and so forth," Martinez said. "You have to keep that in mind. And we do. I've been to the playoffs a lot as a coach now. Rest matters, it really does."

Jones named Nationals honorary bat girl

Thelma Jones -- who in 2007 was diagnosed with a rare, late-stage and aggressive form of breast cancer -- was selected by the Nationals as their honorary bat girl for Mother's Day this Sunday to support her work as a community activist and breast cancer survivor.

Jones has established the Thelma D. Jones Breast Cancer Support Group in Southwest D.C., focusing on underserved communities in the area, and the team will recognize her for her longtime involvement in the community.

Overall, it's the ninth year of Major League Baseball's honorary bat girl program, which started in 2009 to help raise awareness and support for the annual "Going to Bat Against Breast Cancer" initiative celebrated on Mother's Day. Players will wear newly designed caps, while their uniforms will feature a pink ribbon on the chest. MLB will donate its licensed uniform royalties through Mother's Day apparel to Susan G. Komen and Stand Up To Cancer.

Players will also continue to have the opportunity to use pink bats during Mother's Day games. Louisville Slugger will donate proceeds from the sale of their pink bats, which will be stamped with the MLB breast cancer awareness logo, to both Susan G. Komen and Stand Up To Cancer as well.

Injury notes

Matt Grace (left groin) felt sore Wednesday after completing his first Minor League rehab outing the previous night, so the Nationals want to slow him down a bit. He had been scheduled to make a second appearance for Triple-A Syracuse on Thursday, but instead, the Nats will give him a few days off before he is re-evaluated.

Brian Goodwin (left wrist) resumed swinging a bat at extended spring camp Wednesday, the first time he could do so without discomfort since he landed on the disabled list with a wrist contusion. He had been shut down from baseball activities as recently as May 1 after the wrist continued to hinder his progress.

Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

Washington Nationals, Bryce Harper