ATLANTA -- Bryce Harper could return next week, according to Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo. Harper took another major step in his rehab on Tuesday, participating in a simulated game that included running the bases and fielding ground balls.
"We are going to take it day by day and see where he is at," Rizzo said. "He is itching to come back and play, as the leg feels good. That is a positive, as he saw some live batting practice today. We will take the next steps after that. If he is ready and strong enough to play games and get a lot of at-bats in the instructional league, then maybe it is a possibility he could come back sometime before the season ends."
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Rizzo said that Harper's quickness began to return and that he is doing each activity required to get back on the field. He faced a couple of the Nationals' Minor League pitchers and was able to hit different combinations of offspeed and breaking pitches.
The current plan is for Harper to have another workout on Wednesday. The Nationals want to see how he feels before they decide his next step this weekend.
"Our No. 1 goal is to have him feel healthy," Rizzo said. "We want him to be instinctual on the field and not have him thinking about his legs at all. We want him to be 100 percent and let his talents take over to where he doesn't have to think about it."
Harper being able to face live pitching comes two days after he took batting practice on the field at Nationals Park for the first time since the injury. He was also seen running around the warning track last week.
The veteran has been out since a scary injury on Aug. 12, when he slipped on first base and landed with his full weight on his locked left leg. He said on Sunday he hopes to be healthy in time for the National League Division Series, which begins on Oct. 6.
"I hope so. That's definitely in my head," Harper said. "That's what I want to do. That's where I want to be. But it takes time. [I'm] just trying to do the best I can to get out here and do the things I can to get back and get ready, and see where it's at."
Harper was having a stellar season before his injury, hitting .326 with 29 home runs and 87 RBIs in 106 games. He was also on his way to eclipsing 100 runs scored for second time in his career.
Nationals manager Dusty Baker was happy to see Harper back on the field. Baker said he looked good, but had to work on his timing. However, he has confidence that Harper will be ready to return soon.
"I had confidence the whole time and I was hoping for miracles," Baker said. "It looks like a miracle is in the process."