Harper blasts homer in rehab start

Nationals outfielder goes yard in second rehab appearance

By Jake Seiner / Special to MLB.com | June 26, 2013 8:41 PM ET

Good news for Washington: Bryce Harper is back jacking 3-1 changeups into orbit.

In his second rehab appearance in the Class A Advanced Carolina League, the reigning National League Rookie of the Year belted a long home run and finished 1-for-3 in Potomac's 6-5 victory over Myrtle Beach.

Harper hit the homer in his second at-bat off Pelicans starter Jerad Eickhoff.

"He did a good job of laying off some tough pitches," P-Nats manager Brian Daubach said. "He watched a slider in the dirt, and he got to 3-1 and got a changeup."

Harper, in Potomac rehabbing a knee injury, mashed the off-speed offering over the right-field wall to extend the Nationals' lead to 2-0. He followed up the blast with a seven-pitch at-bat in the bottom of the fifth that ended in a flyout to right.

Beyond the home run, Daubach was encouraged to see the rehabbing youngster working counts.

"The more pitches he sees, the more confident he'll get," Daubach said.

Harper served as designated hitter and was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the sixth. On Tuesday, he played three innings in the field and went 1-for-1 with a double and a walk at the plate. Daubach said the outfielder had no trouble playing on back-to-back days.

"He felt great," the skipper said. "He put a lot of work in early with the outfield coordinator here. He threw a lot with him, and they ran quite a bit. He felt very good. There was nothing from the night before."

Harper sustained the knee injury May 13 after running into the outfield wall at Dodger Stadium, then aggravated it May 26. The Nationals placed him on the 15-day disabled list June 12 with knee bursitis.

The 20-year-old was the Rookie of the Year last season and was hitting .287 with a .973 OPS through 44 games this season before landing on the DL.

Harper's rehab appearance has been a boon for attendance at Potomac's Pfitzner Stadium, with 5,777 in attendance Wednesday after 8.495 came out Tuesday.

"It's been fun here with the atmosphere, no question," Daubach said. "On Tuesday and Wednesday nights, we don't usually get crowds like that. There's always more buzz with the rehabbing guys, and having Harper here, it's a fun atmosphere."

The rehab assignment has reunited Harper with a number of former teammates from when he played under Daubach at Hagerstown in 2011. Despite being a rehabbing Major Leaguer, Harper was the youngest member of the Potomac squad Wednesday night, and Daubach said he and the former teammates were happy to be reunited.

"They really were just asking him for bats," Daubach added jokingly.

The Nationals also were supported by catcher Adrian Nieto, who went 4-for-4 with his sixth homer. The Havana, Cuba native has homered in consecutive games and has three over his past five contests. The 23-year-old switch-hitter is batting .421 over his past 10 games and has a .296 average and .820 OPS in 60 games this season.

"He's staying to the middle of the field very well," Daubach said. "His homers happen when he catches one out front. He's thinking left-center, right-center, stay in the middle of the field. He hit the ball really well in April and May and didn't have much to show for it, but he's never varied the approach he's had."

Jake Seiner is a contributor to MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Jake_Seiner. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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