Washington Nationals’ Bryce Harper Returns Tonight, Expect Lineup Changes

Joy R. Absalon- USA TODAY Sports

Tonight, the Washington Nationals will see the return of the pre-Yasiel Puig phenom, Bryce Harper.

Harper, as we all know, has been out for about five weeks with knee bursitis after crashing into a wall in Los Angeles and then attempting to play on it, which may or may not have aggravated the injury further. He then sat and was then placed on the DL. After playing four rehab games with both Potomac and Harrisburg, Harper has had no setbacks via swelling or pain, and will be activated today ahead of Washington’s series opener with the Milwaukee Brewers.

Anthony Rendon has been tearing the cover off the ball since his second call-up, reaching base every conceivable way aside from being hit by pitches. Rendon is batting .330, and has been fantastic in the no. 2 spot behind Denard Span, which has allowed Jayson Werth to move down in the lineup and drive in runs more.

Davey Johnson has alluded to moving Werth back into the two-hole when Harper returns, probably because of how close Werth and Harper are and how they feed off each other at-bat wise when Werth bats ahead of Harper.

So, what will Washington’s lineup look like?

That is an interesting question, because one would think Harper would just be plugged back in at no. 3, Ryan Zimmerman goes to cleanup and Adam LaRoche moves to the no. 5 spot. But, what Johnson could do is move Rendon behind LaRoche and ahead of Ian Desmond because of Desmond’s aggressive approach.

What Rendon could do is work counts, see pitches and get on base like he has been, which gives Desmond a chance to see more pitches from the on-deck circle and perhaps come up waiting for a certain pitch, and potentially get more doubles and even a two or three-run home run.

If I am Johnson, this is my lineup card tonight:

1. Span CF
2. Werth RF
3. Harper LF
4. Zimmerman 3B
5. LaRoche 1B
6. Rendon 2B
7. Desmond SS
8. Kurt Suzuki C
9. Pitcher

That’s a very balanced lineup that will work counts, but also splits the players who are more aggressive from the more reserved. Tonight could begin the turnaround for Washington, and it could all start with a couple of lineup tweaks.

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