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05/03/2013 1:09 AM ET

Rendon leaves Majors smarter, eager to return

Nationals prospect sent back to Double-A after 2-for-4 night

ATLANTA -- Washington will feel really good about activating third baseman Ryan Zimmerman on Friday in Pittsburgh.

They're feeling even better about the future at third base, having seen it while Zimmerman was out in rookie third baseman Anthony Rendon.

Rendon will be going back to Double-A Harrisburg, where the 22-year-old began the season prior to his April 21 callup after Zimmerman went on the disabled list, but he showed he has a long-term future in the Majors.

"He really did a great job," said manager Davey Johnson. "He fielded outstanding and got some good base hits. It's nice to think he got his average up to .240. I'm sure he can live with that."

Rendon will be flying to D.C. tomorrow then drive to Harrisburg to join the Senators, who host a weekend series with Binghamton.

While he sleeps in Atlanta, he'll have pleasant dreams of his stay with the Nationals, especially his final game, his first career multi-hit game, going 2-for-4.

"Not too bad. It's good to go on a high note," he said, with a laugh.

"It was awesome," he added. "It's the highest level you can play. I don't think it can get much better than this."

He, of course, expects to, especially now that he's seen how the game is played at the big league level. He expects to not only be better but smarter.

"The game is just played a lot smarter up here," said the Richmond, Texas, native, the Nats' first pick (sixth overall) in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft. "Everyone is pretty much on the same level talent-wise but the way the game is played, they'll pitch this pitch instead of that pitch or they'll take something off or they'll play this position over on this hitter. They just play a lot smarter up here.

"It's going to make a great difference if I do happen to come back," he added. "The comfort level is going to be a lot higher now. Obviously, the more things that you do, the more ABs you get, the more times you play, you get more comfortable at it. It helped a lot."

Johnson prefers to say "when" Rendon comes back up, not "if."

"I think he's handled himself well," said Johnson. "It's not easy coming up here. They locate better here but I think he's made adjustments in the short time that he's been here and done well.

"The last couple of springs he's had good Spring Trainings," Johnson added. "He's done very well in the field and he's had some awfully good at-bats. It's not going to be long before he's back here. He's a good player."

Rendon, who made his eighth start Thursday night and batted .240 (6-for-25), with a double, an RBI and two runs scored, admitted that his first taste of the Majors was pretty good and that he'll be working even harder on every facet of his game, even hungrier to make it back.

"Oh yeah. That's what anybody's goal is, to play at the highest level and play to your potential," he said. "That's what I try to do every time I come out here and play."

Harper OK, in the lineup for finale with Atlanta

ATLANTA -- Bryce Harper didn't want to come out of Wednesday night's game, a 2-0 victory over the Braves at Turner Field, and he certainly didn't want to sit out Thursday's series finale.

He got his wish, starting in left field and batting in his customary third spot in the order.

He's back in full swing -- or at least he'd better be, according to Nationals manager Davey Johnson.

"It's check-swinging," said Johnson with a laugh when asked about concerns over Harper's swing. "He said he wanted to go, and I said, 'Don't check your swing.' He has no broken ribs or anything from the crash into the wall [on Tuesday]. We need him in the lineup."

Harper left Wednesday's game following his at-bat in the top of the sixth inning. He winced and reached for his side after a check swing on an 0-1 pitch in the dirt from Atlanta starter Paul Maholm. He then ripped a one-hop smash to first base on the next pitch for an out but would not take the field in the bottom of the inning.

X-rays taken on Thursday morning showed nothing broken, and he iced the area and underwent some ultrasound to get ready.

"The doctor said it was a very bad bruise and took the x-ray to be precautionary," said Johnson. "He's young, strong. He didn't want to come out [on Wednesday night] when I took him out. I had to fight him on that. So I wasn't going to have that same battle today when he said he was good to go.

"He might have taken it personally. So I said, 'I'll give you Monday off.'"

The Nationals have an off-day on Monday prior to hosting the Tigers on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Harper originally hurt himself in the bottom of the fourth inning on Tuesday night, when he crashed into the wall in right field trying to rob Braves pitcher Tim Hudson of a home run.

But he would not be robbed of an opportunity to play on Thursday as the Nats sought to leave Atlanta with a series split.

"Just my swing, that's the biggest movement I need to worry about," Harper said prior to batting practice. "Throwing-wise, it doesn't feel [bad]. Just rotating. We'll see how it feels.

"It's not to the point where I can really feel it. I don't see why I wouldn't be [in the lineup] unless I feel it in BP, and then I probably won't play. I don't see it being my oblique or anything like that. It's more inside my rib area than it is my oblique."

He also showed he'd learned a little something.

"So maybe I shouldn't run into walls," he said.

Tight hamstring curtails Werth's return

ATLANTA -- For Jayson Werth, honesty was more important than trying to play through injury.

Werth proved to be a man of his word in the fourth inning of Thursday night's game at Turner Field. Unfortunately, it cost him the rest of the game and likely the next couple of days. Fortunately, it won't cost him any more than that.

"The deal was, I told Davey [Johnson] if something came up, I'd be honest," Werth said. "So [Atlanta first baseman Freddie] Freeman hit that ball down the line. I cut it off, and in the middle of doing that, I reached for the ball; it kind of bounced away from me. I kind of overreached for it, and the hamstring tightened up a little bit again. When that happened I was like, 'I told you I'd be honest. It tightened up.' He said, 'OK,' and he got me out of there. The doc looked at it. It's nothing severe. So it's mild. Very, very mild. It's just tight."

Johnson pinch-hit for Werth -- who had gone 0-for-2 with a strikeout -- in the top of the fifth, then inserted Roger Bernadina into the game, ending the Nationals' chance to get a look at their full complement of outfielders. That was the plan heading into the game, as Werth started in right field and batted fourth.

"He's a smart enough player to know," said Johnson. "It was very close to pulling, and it just got real tight on him. I shouldn't have played him anyway."

Werth had missed the previous two games of the series while dealing with the 1-2 punch of a tight right hamstring and a sore left ankle, the latter coming after he fouled off a 2-1 pitch from Atlanta's Eric O'Flaherty on Monday night.

But after pregame testing on Thursday, he felt good to go.

"I've had muscle strains, stuff like that. This just feels like tightness, and I was fine up until then," said Werth, who admitted that he's in uncharted territory as far as hamstring injuries go. "Hopefully, it's nothing. I felt like I could go. I felt fast when I tested it before the game, so I don't feel like I was doing anything I shouldn't have been doing by playing. It's just one of those things. It just happened."

With third baseman Ryan Zimmerman expected to rejoin the club in Pittsburgh on Friday, the Nats had hoped to start looking like the team Johnson envisioned for 2013.

That will have to wait a little.

"I hope he's all right, but he's probably going to need a few days off," said Johnson.

Jon Cooper is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.