Tuesday July 1st, 2014

Bryce Harper made headlines in his return from the disabled list Monday not with his play but with his words, expressing displeasure at manager Matt Williams's decision to bat Harper sixth in the order and move Ryan Zimmerman back to third base to clear left field for Harper.

Harper's comments were the type that could cause more of a rift between him and his manager. But Williams answered Harper on Tuesday by defending his young star.

Despite Williams' insistence, it's hard to believe that all is well between he and Harper. It's clear that Williams's hard-line approach, epitomized by his decision to bench Harper after he didn't hustle to first on a grounder in April, hasn't exactly rubbed Harper the right way.

The Nationals have to hope that Williams' talk with Harper on Tuesday could be a positive step in getting the pair back on the same page.

Harper is batting .291 with one home run and 10 RBI in 23 games this season and went 1-for-3 Monday in his return. The Nationals entered Tuesday 44-38, one-half game behind the first-place Braves in the NL East.

MORE MLB: Verducci's midseason awards | Trade deadline pitching targets

—Ben Estes

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