WASHINGTON -- The Nationals are feeling more confident about the status of outfielder Bryce Harper after he played in five games before the end of the regular season to test out his left knee. Now comes the task of best utilizing the off-days between the end of the season and the start of the National League Division Series presented by T-Mobile on tonight.
Harper faced live pitching Tuesday during a live batting-practice session against Nationals right-hander Edwin Jackson and left-hander Sammy Solis. Washington has more pitchers that need to throw during the next few days, so the Nats likely will have at least one more live batting practice session that will also benefit Harper.
"Every day that Bryce sees live pitching is a day he's getting closer and closer and closer," manager Dusty Baker said.
Harper went 3-for-18 with two walks, two stolen bases and seven strikeouts in a five-game pseudo rehab assignment last week. He insisted from the beginning that results were not going to be important, rather how comfortable he felt on the field. Still, his most recent game on Sunday was also his most encouraging; he collected two hits and looked healthy scoring from first base on a double.
"He played very well in his last game, and that's a positive sign for us and him," Baker said. "Because, you know, he doesn't like making outs. He's not used to making outs.
"Is he there all the way? I don't know. But it's the threat of Bryce. And is 85 to 90 percent Bryce better than most? I'd say yes."
Uncertain contract status
Baker said he has been told that the Nationals will wait until the end of the season to resolve his contract status. He is not under contract beyond this season, but after consecutive postseason appearances, the Nationals have said publicly they're happy with Baker's performance. And he is happy in Washington and reiterated again Tuesday that he plans to keep managing.
"I'm concentrating on today," Baker said. "My future is to really stay healthy, stay alive so I can see my son play in the big leagues. I've given some thought to some things, but we were told that we were waiting until after the season to make determination. There's a good chance I'll be back. I wanna be back."
The Nationals also got their first glimpse of outfielder Brian Goodwin on Tuesday after he completed a rehab assignment in West Palm Beach, Fla., for his groin injury. Baker said he did not notice any signs of Goodwin limping or favoring his injury at all, and he liked what he saw both offensively and defensively.
The question now remains whether the Nationals have seen enough to put Goodwin on the postseason roster even though he has not faced Major League pitching since August.
"He's done everything but that," Baker said. "But he has faced live pitching. Probably similar to where [Cubs outfielder Kyle] Schwarber was last year at this time. Very similar. You never know until they get in there. But you know that he's a definite threat. He brings power. He brings speed. And he appears to be healthy."
Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.