05/23/12 7:26 PM ET
Johnson pleased with Harper's play, demeanor
By Bill Ladson / MLB.com
"That is a dead issue," Johnson said.
Harper showed how to get revenge in a 9-3 loss to the Phillies on May 6 at Nationals Park. With two outs in the first inning, Hamels hit Harper in the back with his first pitch to the 19-year-old rookie, then acknowledged after the game that it was his intention to hit Harper.
After getting drilled, Harper advanced to third on a single by Jayson Werth. Harper was then able to pay Hamels back by stealing home while the pitcher tried to pick off Werth at first base. Harper became the second player in Nationals history to steal home, and the first to do so on a straight steal.
"The only thing that exacerbated it is Hamels saying something," Johnson said. "He didn't head hunt or nothing like that. He hit one of my good hitters in the back. It didn't bother my guy. As far as I'm concerned, it's just an off-the-cuff remark from a left-handed pitcher. ... [Wednesday's] game is more important than that little incident. It's past us."
Harper, 19, has been a valuable player ever since the Nationals called him up to the big leagues on April 28. Entering Wednesday's action, Harper was 23-for-87 (.264) with two home runs and nine RBIs. Harper already leads the team in triples with three, and has hit everywhere in the lineup except for first, fourth, eighth and ninth.
"I didn't expect him to be here as quickly as he is here," Johnson said. "I didn't expect him to look as comfortable as he looks up here. I think he is very relaxed. He is having fun, he is expressing his talent. It's much needed. His energy level [from a young player] is always important on a ballclub. It's nice having him."
Morse ready for game action in Florida
PHILADELPHIA -- Michael Morse, who is on the disabled list because of a torn left lat (shoulder) muscle, is expected to play in extended spring games starting Friday in Viera, Fla., according to manager Davey Johnson.
Morse is expected to play three games and then start a rehab assignment soon thereafter.
The team is hoping that Morse returns to action on June 8, when it plays the Red Sox. However, according to Johnson, there are people in the organization who hope that Morse can play in a Major League game before that.
"In Morse's mind, he is ready tomorrow, as soon as he is playing one game," Johnson said. "His throwing is what aggravated his arm. I'm not worried about his hitting. He is always thinking about hitting, and he has been hitting on the sly, probably throughout this whole thing. I'm more worried about him throwing, and that could aggravate it."
Zimmerman returns to lineup for finale
PHILADELPHIA -- After missing a day because of right shoulder issues, Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman was back in the starting lineup against the Phillies on Wednesday.
Manager Davey Johnson said he should have monitored Zimmerman closely after he came off the disabled list earlier this month because of the same issues.
"After the 17 days he was off, generally, I would want to give him some time off in there rather than push it," Johnson said. "But he is so valuable to the ballclub that I didn't even want to go there. But as I told him the other day, we are in a long war. We can miss a battle here, let's make sure that we are around for most of them."
DeRosa back with Nats after visiting father
PHILADELPHIA -- Outfielder/infielder Mark DeRosa returned to the Nationals after spending the last two days with his ailing father, Jack, who has cancer.
"He is battling hard. He has had a few surgeries in the last couple of days to give him a chance to be strong enough to accept the chemotherapy that he has to go through," Mark DeRosa said.
DeRosa is hoping to be playing in a Major League game by June 15. He is currently on the disabled list because of left oblique strain. DeRosa said he is feeling better and has been able to hit and throw.
"Hopefully, I'm not too far off," DeRosa said.
After a couple of days of hitting, DeRosa hopes to start a rehab assignment soon thereafter.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.