Bryce Harper is slowly progressing toward a return to the Nationals, writes Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post. Harper ran the bases lightly on Tuesday, fielded some grounders and also hit in a simulated game against Nationals minor leaguers Brigham Hill and Sterling Sharp (no, not that Sterling Sharpe). Both manager Dusty Baker and GM Mike Rizzo were cautiously optimistic about Harper’s progress, with the latter stating that it’s “conceivable” that the former NL MVP could return to the team before the conclusion of the regular season. Baker suggested that another simulated game could be in store for Harper this week, though the Nats will closely monitor how Harper responds to yesterday’s workout today. Janes also provides updates on Stephen Drew and Brian Goodwin, though neither appears as close to returning as Harper.
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- The Post’s Jorge Castillo, meanwhile, reports that the Nationals have hired former American League Cy Young winner Pete Vuckovich as a special assistant to general manager Mike Rizzo (Twitter link). Vuckovich has previously held special assistant roles in the Pirates’ front office and the Mariners’ front office, and Castillo notes that he’s spent the past couple of seasons working as a pro scout in the Diamondbacks organization. Vuckovich spent parts of 11 seasons pitching for the Brewers, Cardinals, White Sox and Blue Jays.
- In a second column, Janes examines the Nationals’ selection of left-hander Seth Romero with the 25th overall pick in this year’s draft, noting that his off-field issues make the selection a departure from the norm for the team. Washington typically stays away from players with off-field issues, and Romero had plenty heading into the draft, having been kicked off the University of Houston team after receiving a pair of suspensions (the latter of the two, reportedly, for failing a drug test and being photographed in uniform holding a bong). Assistant GM Doug Harris, though, tells Janes that the Nats aren’t treating Romero any differently than the rest of their prospects. “He’s going to be given a chance like any other player to come in here and let us know who he is,” says Harris, later adding that Romero hasn’t had any issues in his first few months with the club. Romero himself tells Janes that he considers those problems to be behind him and is working to distance himself from that perception.