Harper slides down to sixth in Nationals' order

Harper slides down to sixth in Nationals' order

WASHINGTON -- A day after saying that outfielder Bryce Harper would hit near the top of the batting order against right-handed pitchers, Nationals manager Matt Williams decided to place Harper sixth in the order against Cubs righty Carlos Villanueva on Saturday afternoon.

The reason for the change of heart is that Harper is 3-for-15 (.200) in four games since being activated from the disabled list on Monday. Harper missed two months of action because of torn ligaments in his left thumb.

"Bryce is a little tick off [with his swing]," Williams said. "We certainly want to get him going. He needs at-bats. Yesterday, I thought we would give him an opportunity to potentially get some good fastballs to hit if Denard [Span] got on. [Harper] is a little jumpy still. He continues to work on it. He'll be fine. He'll get it. It will come quickly."

With Harper hitting sixth, second baseman Anthony Rendon was moved back to the second spot in the order. Entering Saturday's action, Rendon was hitting .290 with nine homers and 34 RBIs in 59 games hitting second this season.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.