Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Bryce Harper has returned from a sprained ankle and is slated to open the season.
Before we get to the exhibition finale, a couple of items to pass along...
-- Bryce Harper is back playing in minor-league games one week after spraining his left ankle. Harper got two at-bats and played three innings in the field Sunday and would have played yesterday if not for the rain. It appears all systems are go for the 18-year-old phenom to make his minor-league debut with the rest of the Hagerstown club April 7 in Rome, Ga. The Nationals dodged a bullet with this one. They were originally worried this was something serious because Harper, after falling to the ground when he landed awkwardly on first base trying to beat out a grounder, wouldn't get up and had to be taken off the field on a cart. Obviously, the injury wasn't as severe as everyone feared, and Harper was back on his feet soon thereafter.
-- The news isn't as positive for the player the Nationals drafted one round behind Harper last summer: Sammy Solis. The left-hander has a groin injury that will sideline him for the start of the season and could keep him out for a while. That's disappointing news for Solis, a 22-year-old starter from the University of San Diego who figures to be on a fast track to the majors. Looks like that timetable will have to be pushed back a bit.
-- Erik Davis, the pitcher the Nationals got from the Padres yesterday for Alberto Gonzalez, is a pretty intriguing guy. He was a senior at Stanford when Drew Storen was a freshman there, and Storen had great things to say about the right-hander. Davis has won 30 games in the minors the last two seasons combined and struck out 133 batters in 143 1/3 innings last year at three levels of San Diego's system. Surprisingly, though, he's not a power pitcher. Davis' specialty is his change-up, which apparently is quite an effective pitch. Storen also raved about his competitive nature and ability to come up big in big games (he beat an undefeated Arizona State team in 2008 and later beat Miami in the College World Series).
-- Finally, I need to clarify a couple of things I wrote in Sunday's analysis of the Nyjer Morgan trade. In that piece, I suggested the Nationals were actively trying to trade Morgan and that they would have released him had GM Mike Rizzo not been able to pull off a deal. A front-office executive informed me yesterday that Rizzo wasn't the one initiating trade discussions, that GMs from three others teams approached him expressing interest in Morgan. The Nationals also were fully prepared to option Morgan to Class AAA Syracuse had they not traded him and had no plans to release him.