7/19/2014 1:00 A.M. ET
Tweaked stance pays off immediately for Harper
By Bill Ladson and Daniel Popper / MLB.com
WASHINGTON -- There's no place like home. Just ask Bryce Harper.
The Nationals outfielder returned to Las Vegas during the All-Star Break to spend some much-anticipated time with his family. He arrived on Sunday and left on Thursday.
"Being home, there's nothing like it," Harper said. "Just have some good time off and get away from all the [stuff]."
In 12 games before the All-Star Break, his first since missing two months with a torn left thumb ligament, Harper hit .150 and struck out 16 times.
But after making adjustments to his stance while home with his father, Ron, this past week, Harper exploded for a 3-for-4 night against the Brewers, including his third home run of the season in the ninth inning of the 4-2 loss.
"He stood up just a touch more to get on top of the baseball," manager Matt Williams said after the game. "He lowered his hands a little bit, probably a little more direct to the ball. He worked on that over the break and he looked good up there tonight."
"I tried to do something a little bit different," Harper said. "And it felt good."
Storen, Stammen get gloves clipped on the hill
WASHINGTON -- Around two weeks ago, the Nationals, along with the rest of Major League Baseball, received a memo from the league regarding the length of laces on pitchers' gloves.
The league stated the long laces provided an unfair advantage in situations where pitchers were covering bases -- home plate, for example. If a play goes to replay review and the umpire sees the glove laces touch the base runner, the umpire must rule that baserunner out. So MLB started a directive to eliminate this potential flaw in the game.
"It's up the umpires now to police that," manager Matt Williams said.
Reliever Craig Stammen said the Nationals bullpen didn't think much of the memo. They even laughed about it during batting practice on Friday afternoon. But the jokes took a turn for the serious during the series opener against the Brewers Friday night when both Stammen and reliever Drew Storen were forced to trim their laces, as mandated by home-plate umpire Chad Fairchild.
"I was just kind of confused all around," Storen said. "I guess now I'll keep that in mind."
The first incident occurred with Storen on the mound in the eighth inning. Head athletic trainer Lee Kuntz jogged onto the field and took a pair of scissors to the right-hander's glove. The same thing happened the following inning, though Stammen said he was mentally prepared.
"Knock that one off the bucket list," Storen said.
Zimmermann likely to avoid DL stint
WASHINGTON -- Nationals right-hander Jordan Zimmermann will not go on the disabled list after suffering a right biceps strain last Friday against the Phillies. The All-Star break allowed Zimmermann to rest his arm, and he was able to long toss with the Nats on Thursday.
The next order of business for Zimmermann will be to have a bullpen session Saturday at Nationals Park. If the session goes well, Zimmermann will likely pitch Tuesday against the Rockies in Colorado.
"I felt all along [the arm] was going to be fine. I knew the break would help. I was able to put some meds in me," Zimmermann said. "I came back [Thursday], and I threw 100 feet and I felt fine. I knew I wasn't going on the DL. It wasn't bad. I needed some rest. I got what I needed and, hopefully, be good to go for the rest of the year."
Zimmermann was replaced on the 2014 National League All-Star Game roster as a result of the biceps injury. He did not watch the game because he was throwing a cookout in his Wisconsin home.
"I obviously wanted to be there," Zimmermann said regarding the All-Star Game."But the best thing for me was to take a little break and get some rest."
Gio's canceled flight forces rotation changes
WASHINGTON -- Manager Matt Williams was forced to make changes to his starting rotation coming out of the All-Star Break after Gio Gonzalez missed the Nationals' workout Thursday night because of a cancelled flight.
Gonzalez, who was scheduled to start Saturday's game against the Brewers, was en route to Washington from Miami when one of his connecting flights was canceled because of mechanical issues. As a result, the left-hander couldn't throw his bullpen on Thursday, and instead threw it on Friday afternoon.
Originally, Williams announced his rotation would feature Gonzalez on Saturday and Doug Fister on Sunday. But after the minor travel hiccup, Tanner Roark is now slated for Saturday while Gonzalez will be pushed back to Sunday. Fister will move to Monday before Jordan Zimmermann returns to the mound on Tuesday, pending no setbacks regarding his biceps injury.
"[Gonzalez] could have pitched [Saturday] without throwing a bullpen, but we don't want to do that," Williams said. "We want to make sure."
Fister, who last pitched on July 9, was also a possibility to start Saturday in place of Gonzalez, but Williams said he wanted to give the right-hander a couple extra days of rest.
• ESPN selected the Nationals game against the Braves on Aug. 10 for Sunday Night Baseball. The contest will start at 8 p.m.
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. Daniel Popper is an associate reporter for MLB.com. He also can be found on Twitter @danielrpopper. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.