Harper set to come off DL, boost lineup Monday
NEW YORK -- Nationals infielder Chad Tracy said it best. Getting outfielder Bryce Harper off the 15-day disabled list is like acquiring a power hitter before the non-waiver Trade Deadline.
Harper, who missed the entire month of June because of a left knee injury, is expected to be activated from the disabled list on Monday and hit third against the Brewers at Nationals Park. Before he injured his knee slamming into the wall at Dodger Stadium on May 13, Harper, 20, was clearly the best player on the Nationals. At the time of the injury, he was leading the team in almost every offensive category. Harper didn't go on the disabled list until June 1.
"Bryce is a big part of this team," right-hander Jordan Zimmermann said. "Our lineup hasn't been 100 percent all year. He is a great hitter, great defender. It's definitely good to get him back. He's definitely young and has a lot of learning to do. He is a an energetic player and he is going to give it his all every time out. That's all you can ask for."
Right-hander Dan Haren said the lineup will be a lot deeper with Harper in it. Haren said Harper brings energy not only to the team, but to the home crowd as well.
"He is almost a villain on the road. It's fun having him back," Haren said. "I think the team will feed off that energy and be dying to get back."
Haren has the distinction of playing with Harper and Angels outfielder Mike Trout. Haren is not surprised that both players have had an impact on their teams at such a young age.
"That's kind of the way baseball is going nowadays. There are so many young superstars -- Trout, [Manny] Machado, a lot of guys throwing 100 miles per hour," Haren said. "It's really an exciting time for baseball. It really says a lot for the way they were brought up. They are mature and they are able to handle the big league life, media, all the things that come along, because it's not easy."
Adam LaRoche jokingly said he and his teammates need to keep Harper out of trouble. There is a good reason for it.
"We have to keep away from anything dangerous, and he is going to be all right," LaRoche said.
One person who can't wait to see Harper back in the lineup is manager Davey Johnson.
"It's good to get Harper back. He is going to be aggressive [at the plate], and we just need to keep that momentum going," Johnson said. "He carried us for a couple of months. [The pitchers] had to pitch him tough. … It's going to be good to get him back. I have to figure how to put him back in. I'm leaning toward the original way I had [the lineup]."