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7/4/2014 12:15 P.M. ET

Harper hits second in opener with Cubs

WASHINGTON -- Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper recently said he would like to hit in the top of the order. He got his wish on Friday, as he was penciled into the No. 2 spot against the Cubs.

Manager Matt Williams said Harper was hitting second because the skipper wanted to create some offense for the middle of the order against right-hander Jasom Hammel.

"We faced three lefties the last three games, so I wanted to give [Harper] some opportunities to drive runs in," said Williams. "The same holds true for Anthony [Rendon] in that regard. Bryce at the top of the lineup against the right-handed pitcher will create some stuff."

Outfield work has helped Zimmerman's throws

WASHINGTON -- Since returning to third base this past Monday, Nationals slugger Ryan Zimmerman seems to have more zip on his throws to first base.

He was able to turn a double play on Monday, for example, in the seventh inning against the Rockies.

Leadoff hitter Charlie Blackmon lined a shot to third base. Zimmerman dove, caught the ball and made a perfect throw to first baseman Adam LaRoche to double off Corey Dickerson at first.

Manager Matt Williams has also noticed a difference in Zimmerman's throwing. The skipper believes playing left field helped Zimmerman improve his throwing. The warm weather may have helped, as well, according to Williams.

"I think his arm feels fine. I would imagine that throwing from the outfield and making the longer throw may have helped him, as well," Williams said. "I think he has thrown fine."

Zimmerman said he is not doing anything differently. He doesn't throw as often, like he did before games.

"I'm not doing anything too crazy, nothing different," Zimmerman said. "Hopefully, it keeps going like it's going."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time He can also be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.