6/21/2013 12:04 A.M. ET
LaRoche shows off speed to go with three hits
By Tom Schad and Andrew Simon / MLB.com
WASHINGTON -- The Nationals re-signed first baseman Adam LaRoche this offseason for his prowess with the bat, not on the basepaths. But he displayed a little of both in Thursday's 5-1 win over the Rockies.
LaRoche went 3-for-4 at the plate, notching his first three-hit game of the season after accomplishing the feat nine times a year ago. He is 6-for-11 in his past three games after enduring an 0-for-16 stretch over five before that.
LaRoche's first chance to make a difference with his legs Thursday came in the fourth inning, when he singled and stood at second with two outs. Kurt Suzuki's grounder got between third baseman Nolan Arenado and shortstop Jonathan Herrera, trickling into shallow left field. Third-base coach Trent Jewett waved LaRoche home as Herrera went to retrieve the ball, and LaRoche slid home just ahead of Yorvit Torrealba's tag for Washington's second run.
In the next inning, LaRoche drove in two with his deep fly ball to the right-center gap that dropped at the feet of center fielder Tyler Colvin. When the ball then eluded Colvin and rolled to the wall, LaRoche steamed around second and dived head-first into third for his second triple of the season.
The 33-year-old last notched two triples in a season in 2010 and reached three only once in his previous 10 seasons. He also has already matched his career high with two stolen bases this season.
"It's a lot like wine," LaRoche joked about his speed. "It gets better with age. I just get faster with age."
As for his more well-known talents, LaRoche has been through a hot-and-cold season. He hit .136 with a .473 OPS in April, then .330 with a 1.024 OPS in May. June has been quiet -- he still has not homered this month -- but the past three games offer some positives.
Speaking about the Nationals' offense in general, LaRoche said he saw some good signs Thursday, when the team pounded out 11 hits and got starter Jordan Zimmermann some early runs.
"But it's not a change of approach at the plate," he said. "Guys do what they do. We've been playing long enough; it's tough to change what works for you. We just had a bad stretch of luck and had guys not going. We continue to do it, and we've said it from the beginning: If we continue to do it, it's going to show up. It didn't, it didn't, waiting it out forever, but with this group, eventually it will. I can't say as a team we changed something. They just started rolling our way a little bit."
Harper pushes toward next phase of recovery
WASHINGTON -- The Nationals have rehabilitation charts for every injured player, outlining when and how he can begin to recover from a specific ailment. But it appears that outfielder Bryce Harper is working off his own rehab schedule.
Harper has recently done some "unauthorized running," according to manager Davey Johnson, but he has not had any more swelling in his injured left knee. Johnson also said the 20-year-old slugger would take some swings in the batting cage before Thursday's game and could begin a rehab assignment soon.
"He's close," Johnson said. "If [the knee] doesn't swell up tomorrow, as far as I'm concerned, he can play some. I think he's champing at the bit."
Harper has been on the disabled list since June 1 with bursitis in his left knee. While Harper was not officially cleared to resume baseball activities until Thursday afternoon, Johnson thinks the reigning National League Rookie of the Year has felt healthy enough to speed up the process.
"He probably won't tell anybody, but I'm sure he's been doing baseball stuff," Johnson said.
Harper originally injured the knee May 13 when he ran into the right-field wall at Dodger Stadium and aggravated the injury with two head-first slides May 26.
Harper previously said he would want to play a few Minor League games before returning to the Nationals' lineup, though Johnson would not outline a specific timetable for Harper's return. Washington is 10-17 this season without Harper in the lineup.
"He's just got to convince the medical staff that he's good to go," Johnson said. "The way I look at it is, he goes and plays a couple of games, and if he doesn't have any swelling in the knee, he'll be ready."
Bernadina's, Tracy's ailments not considered serious
WASHINGTON -- Roger Bernadina and Chad Tracy missed Wednesday's game in Philadelphia, but they were not expected to miss significant time, manager Davey Johnson said.
Bernadina could not see out of his left eye and visited an eye doctor Thursday. After receiving some eye drops, he said he felt "way better." He entered the game in left field in the top of the ninth inning on Thursday night and said he would be ready to go Friday.
"He got drops for an allergy or something; it looked like he had something in his eye," Johnson said. "His eyes were so bad, he couldn't find the doctor's office. He was supposed to be there at 2 p.m., and it was 4 p.m., and he still hadn't gotten there."
Tracy, meanwhile, had muscle spasms in his back, which Johnson called "a little alignment problem." Tracy spent most of Wednesday's game in the training room and received further treatment Thursday, Johnson said. His injury is not considered serious.
• The bones in Ryan Mattheus' fractured right hand have healed, but manager Davey Johnson said the right-hander still had a long way to go in his rehab. Mattheus played catch on the field before Thursday's game and had his hand examined by trainer Lee Kuntz.
"That's going to be a slow process," Johnson said. "It won't be like it is for starting pitcher, but he's gotta go through that mound work, throwing every day, and then getting on a mound every other day, throwing bullpens, throwing to live hitters."
• Catcher Wilson Ramos is on track to begin a Minor League rehab assignment within 10 days, Johnson said.
Tom Schad is an associate reporter for MLB.com Follow him on Twitter @Tom_Schad. Andrew Simon is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @HitTheCutoff. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.