Bryce Harper is making progress. Nationals fans should be paying attention to Josh Hamilton, who’s had a relatively simple return from his similar thumb surgery. Hamilton has made it through this process normally and not much is ever normal for Hamilton. News today from Dan Kolko of MASN was very positive, with Harper progressing to soft toss and two-handed swings. It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a big step. 

Most clearly it shows that Harper is advancing quickly after surgery. He’s able to grip the bat, meaning he’s been able to keep muscle tone and that his thumb is healing well. Assuming all goes well over the next few days and no setbacks for the thumb, Harper will likely progress to batting practice and live hitting quickly.

That could put him on track for a rehab assignment within the next 10 days. He shouldn’t need much time there, just enough to get his confidence back and show Nats officials that he’s ready to be back in the bigs. The key is bat control.

For any hand injury, a loss of grip strength and fine muscle control will often lead to more swing-and-misses. Hamilton’s done well with this, so there’s a chance that Harper can as well, especially if there’s been some change in the rehab process. (No, I don’t think PlayStation is that change.) 

Look for Harper to start at a low level, but for the Nats to show less restraint with him than they have with others. Harper is tougher to hold back, and the team knows that his bat can be a difference-maker. They will have some questions regarding what happens with Ryan Zimmerman once Harper is back, but no one’s going to hold Harper back because Zimmerman’s looked decent in the outfield. Once Harper shows any signs of power, get him back in your lineup if not before.

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