LaRoche out with flu; Harper bats cleanup

LaRoche out with flu; Harper bats cleanup

WASHINGTON -- Just when it seemed like the Nationals finally had returned to full health, one of their marquee players was left out of the lineup in Friday night's 3-2 loss to the Dodgers.

Adam LaRoche missed the team's first game after the All-Star break with flu-like symptoms. Manager Davey Johnson hopes that LaRoche can return Saturday.

"He was coughing and whatever; I think he's just got a bad case of the flu," Johnson said before Friday's game. "He came in just to see the doctor, and he's going to stay in the back room and see if they can't get him well."

Johnson tinkered with the Nationals' lineup before the break, moving All-Star Bryce Harper to the top of the order, Anthony Rendon to the No. 2 spot and dropping Denard Span to seventh. Span was back in his usual leadoff role on Friday, with Rendon still second and Harper hitting cleanup.

But after another tough offensive performance, Johnson said that Harper would return to the leadoff spot if LaRoche is available on Saturday. The Nationals' skipper said that he likes his 20-year-old at the top of the order because it frees him up. Harper, however, doesn't have a preference one way or the other.

"Whatever he wants to do. It's up to him. He makes the lineup," Harper said. "I'll just try to have good ABs, and we've got [Zack] Greinke tomorrow, so we've got a lot of work ahead of us, and hopefully we can get things going and try to get some runs."

Tom Schad is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @Tom_Schad. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.