May 30, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals left fielder Bryce Harper works out before the game against the Texas Rangers at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

District Daily: Williams Estimates Harper's Return, Zimmerman's Impact on the Lineup

Start off your day with some great Washington Nationals articles from around the web:

Williams estimates Harper’s return around July 1

(Daniel Popper, MLB.com)

WASHINGTON — Nationals left fielder Bryce Harper (torn ligament in left thumb) took hand-rolled ground balls and practiced throwing on Tuesday as the next step in his rehab process.

“He’s just doing some fielding with his glove and some throwing just to maintain as much motion as he can,” manager Matt Williams said.

Harper is still not cleared for baseball activity, including swinging a bat or playing catch, but he continues to work with therapists to try to strengthen the injured ligament. Williams said a good target date for Harper’s return would be July 1, but it largely depends on how the rest of the rehab process goes. Read full article here.

Ryan Zimmerman’s impact on the lineup

(James Wagner, Washington Post)

Much was made of Ryan Zimmerman’s position change when he returned on Tuesday after missing 44 games with a broken right thumb, and deservedly so. After 10 years of manning third base for the Nationals — brilliantly for much of that time, but a struggle of late — Zimmerman learned a new position because he understood the limitations of his body and the team’s current needs.

A large part of the reasoning behind the decision shouldn’t be overlooked: Zimmerman learned and played left field on Tuesday and will see the majority of time there for the next month because it is a way to get his potent bat in the lineup. Zimmerman, one of the Nationals’ best hitters, fills a void in left field while Bryce Harper is about a month away from returning from his left thumb surgery. Zimmerman, who doubled twice and drove in a run on Tuesday, adds production at a position where the Nationals had relatively little.

“It’s nice to have it the way we wanted to have it initially,” Manager Matt Williams said of the near-intact lineup. “We’re still missing a guy but we’re good.” Read full article here.

Span heating up by slowing down

(Daniel Popper, MLB.com)

WASHINGTON — Heading into Wednesday night’s contest against the Phillies, Nationals leadoff man Denard Span has batted .407 over his last 12 games with 11 runs, five doubles and his only home run of the season.

During that 12-game stretch, Span’s on-base percentage has gone from .308 to .324 while his batting average has jumped from .263 to .281.

The key? Staying relaxed at the plate. Read full article here.

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