PHI@WSH: Harper exits after laboring throughout game

BALTIMORE -- Nationals manager Davey Johnson is hoping that outfielder Bryce Harper can play during the three-game series against the Braves starting Friday in Atlanta.

"I don't have a lot of high hopes, but I'm hopeful," Johnson said.

Harper has missed the last the three games because of bursitis in his left knee, which stemmed from the collision he had with the right-field wall in Los Angles on May 13. On Sunday against the Phillies, Harper's knee got worse while running the bases and fouling a ball off the knee. Harper has tried to hit in the cage recently, but the Nationals just want him to rest.

"Well, we're just trying to let some of the swelling go down and some of the inflammation. And however long that takes is how long it takes," Johnson said.

Detwiler to skip start as Nats practice caution

WSH@LAD: Detwiler leaves the game with ankle injury

BALTIMORE -- Nationals left-hander Ross Detwiler will miss at least one more start because of an oblique strain. He was scheduled to pitch against the Braves on Sunday, but the Nationals decided he needed another week for the injury to heal.

Detwiler injured the oblique while running the bases against the Dodgers on May 15. After a bullpen session on Saturday, Detwiler's oblique tightened up on him while doing infield drills at Nationals Park.

"[I was] just doing [infield drills] and felt something a little bit there," Detwiler said. "So we kind of talked about it, and it's too early in the season to push through it and I don't want to deal with this for the next four or five months."

Detwiler is planning to go with the team to Atlanta and monitor his injury there.

"I've never gone through anything like this before, so that's a question for the trainer," Detwiler said.

Bray on the mend at Nationals' spring complex

BALTIMORE -- Left-hander Bill Bray, who began a stint with Double-A Harrisburg early this month, is now back at the Nationals' complex in Viera, Fla., as he rehabs a sore pitching shoulder.

Bray arrived at Nationals camp with a shot to make the Major League bullpen before mechanical problems put him in extended spring action to begin the season. He straightened out and made four effective appearances for Harrisburg before the discomfort built to point that he had to be placed on the Senators' disabled list on May 22.

"It moved from soreness to just -- I couldn't throw," said Bray via telephone from Florida. "Before that, it was just sore, and I figured it was getting-back-into-shape kind of soreness. I made adjustments to my routine, but I couldn't make them soon enough."

Neither Bray nor the Nationals has offered a specific timetable for his return. But Bray did say that he played catch from 90 feet on Wednesday and hopes to be back on a mound soon.

"It's working its way out," Bray said of the soreness. "I'm feeling much better."

Bray, who was drafted by the Expos and played for the Nationals in 2006, missed much of last season with the Reds because a groin injury that messed with his mechanics. He signed with Washington as a free agent this offseason, taking with him a 3.74 career ERA and .218 opponents' average against lefties.

He struck out six and gave up two hits in 4 1/3 scoreless innings for Harrisburg but admitted he "probably came back too fast," helping lead to the shoulder problems. He believes that the combination of pitching in games, doing extra drills to refine his mechanics and playing frequent long toss was simply more than his arm could handle.

Bray plans to dial back and make another attempt at getting back to the big leagues.

"I probably am going to have to cut back on some of the drill work I've been doing," said Bray, who turns 30 on June 5. "But I think just tweaking my routine slightly and making sure I keep up with my strengthening programs, my stretching programs and then making sure I ice after games and stuff like that, I think I'll be able to control and knock out any kind of lingering soreness."

Latest outing encouraging to Nats' Duke

BALTIMORE -- Nationals left-hander Zach Duke had his best outing Tuesday, pitching 1 2/3 innings without allowing a run in a 9-3 victory over the Orioles.

Duke entered the game in the fifth inning after right-hander Nathan Karns walked two consecutive batters. Duke came in and induced Nick Markakis to hit into a double play to end the threat. Duke then had a 1-2-3 sixth inning.

Duke, who threw only one offspeed pitch during game, said fastball command was the reason he was successful on Tuesday.

"It was good. I wanted to go out there, be efficient, get outs. In a situation, [where I needed to step up], it felt good," Duke said.

Duke believes his success on Tuesday can carry over into the season. He is off to a slow start, allowing 18 earned runs in 20 innings.

"It's a work in progress. It will continue to work out. We are going to go forward from here," Duke said.

Worth noting

• The Nationals were saddened to learn about the passing of Larry Doby Johnson, who is the father of Double-A Harrisburg infielder Josh Johnson.

Josh Johnson took a leave of absence, and it's not known when he will return to the team. Larry Doby Johnson had a cup of coffee in the big leagues in the 1970s, playing the Indians, Expos and White Sox.

• Nationals first-base coach Tony Tarasco missed Wednesday's game against the Orioles because of the birth of his second child. Manager Davey Johnson said Tarasco could miss Thursday's game as well.

"I think the baby's all right, but they were just double checking some things and we were concerned about him," Johnson said. "We told him to just hang in there and support his baby and his wife."

Hitting coach Rick Eckstein has been filling in for Tarasco during his absence.

• On Wednesday, second baseman Danny Espinosa played in his first game since May 22 and went 1-for-4 with three strikeouts and a run scored against the Orioles. Espinosa had missed the previous five games because of a bone chip in his right wrist. The Nationals are hoping that rest would ease the pain in the wrist.