CINCINNATI -- Davey Johnson managed Barry Larkin for three years, from 1993-95, when the current Nationals manager was leading the Reds. Larkin won the National League MVP in 1995, when he hit .319 and stole 51 bases in leading the Reds to the Central Division title and an appearance in the NL Championship Series.

This summer, Larkin will be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.

"I've been asked the question 'Who's the best player I've ever managed?' and my answer is always Barry Larkin," said Johnson. "He's a complete player. He played one of the leading positions on the field, as far as I'm concerned, at shortstop. He could hit anywhere from one to three [in the lineup]. He stole bases whenever you needed him. He was great defensively, and led by example.

"He had a great year for me -- MVP -- and I can't think of another person better to be inducted into the Hall of Fame than Barry Larkin. I've managed a lot of great ones, but what he did and the way he played, he was arguably the best player I managed."

Larkin played 19 seasons for the Reds, his hometown team. He spent four seasons in Washington as a special assistant to former general manager Jim Bowden.

Zimmerman feeling good since return

CINCINNATI -- Three days off the disabled list and Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman is slowly feeling like he's finding his groove.

Zimmerman went 3-for-12 in the three games at Pittsburgh, collecting one hit in each of the games against the Pirates at PNC Park. Inflammation in his right shoulder got Zimmerman off to a slow start -- he's hitting just .229 heading into Friday night's game against the Reds at Great American Ball Park -- but he's confident that average will soon rise.

"I had some good at-bats the first three games, and hit the ball pretty well," said Zimmerman. "It takes a few games to get back in there. I'm just happy to be back in there and not watching it anymore."

Coming to a ballpark with the reputation of being hitter-friendly can help a player find that groove a little quicker.

"It's like playing in Philly and parks like that; you don't try to do too much," said Zimmerman. "You know that you just have to put a good swing on the ball and good things will happen. The bigger parks play into that notion of trying to do too much. You still have to hit the ball and have a good at-bat, but if you hit a ball well here, you usually get rewarded."

Zimmerman is one run shy of reaching 500 for his career, and career hit No. 1,000 is just 37 away.

Harper reflects on first two weeks in Majors

CINCINNATI -- Bryce Harper's play for Washington since being called up from Triple-A Syracuse on April 28 has caused a stir around the Major Leagues. The stir reached the banks of the Ohio River on Friday afternoon, as he met with media before the start of the Nationals' first of three games against Cincinnati at Great American Ball Park.

Cameras, microphones and bodies surrounded Harper as the 19-year-old sat atop the bench in the Washington dugout. He politely answered questions -- "How have you been received in the clubhouse?" ... "Do you ask a lot of questions of the veterans?" -- for a few minutes before heading back to prepare to face Reds right-hander Mike Leake.

"I keep to myself pretty much, try not to say much, and just play the game of baseball and not worry about anything around me," said Harper. "But when guys come up to me and talk to me, that's when I take it in the most. I let them come to me and tell me what I need to do."

Harper reached base safely in 10 of his first 11 games in the big leagues and entered Friday hitting .263. He was just 2-for-12 through the first three games of this current six-game road trip, but that isn't much of a concern for manager Davey Johnson.

"He's had a lot of attention thrown at him, and he's handled it great," said Johnson. "He hasn't changed his game. He's very aggressive and loves to play the game. He doesn't get cheated at home plate. He'll crash into walls or fall down, do whatever he has to do to make a play."

Harper has been a magnet for attention since before the Nationals drafted him No. 1 overall in two years ago. On the road, that means a lot of boos.

"I love getting booed. I do. I really do," said Harper. "At home, it's good to hear the cheers, but I think that it gets me going a little too much. The adrenaline comes in and you want to do so well for your fans. When I'm on the road and I get booed, it puts me in a mellow stage."

Worth noting

• The Nationals won three of four games against the Reds at Nationals Park last month in the opening home series of the season. Washington is seeking to secure just its third season-series win against Cincinnati since moving to D.C. in 2005.

• First baseman Adam LaRoche entered Friday fifth in the National League with a 1.003 OPS. His on-base percentage of .421 and slugging percentage of .582 were both in the top eight of the NL.

• The Nationals have allowed just 15 home runs this season, the lowest total in baseball. That will be tested this weekend at Great American Ball Park, dubbed by some locals as Great American "Small" Park.