Eckstein: Harper advanced as hitter

Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper has impressed hitting coach hitting coach Rick Eckstein. It’s more than just putting up the nice numbers Harper has put up in his brief time in the big leagues.

According to Eckstein, Harper is advanced as far as studying pitchers and having a plan when he steps to the plate. For example, Harper already knew what he was he was going to do when he faced Phillies right-hander Roy Halladay for the first time in his career on May 22nd.

After watching Halladay for the last three years on TV and on video, Harper’s game plan was to look for the curveball on the first-pitch. In the third inning of a 5-2 victory, Harper thought right and hit the ball in the gap for a triple, driving in two runs.

“He is a very talented young man with a great head on his shoulders, especially for being 19,” Eckstein said. “Some of the questions that he asks and his thought process is so advanced. Months before he ever faced Halladay, Bryce knew what he wanted to do. He has watched him and knew in his mind how he was going to approach that at-bat. He is always thinking ahead. He is always thinking further along. It’s not just here and now, it’s where am I going. It’s a very mature mind-set.”

Harper also doesn’t let to left-handers bother him. Entering Saturday action against the Red Sox, Harper is 15-for-41 [.366] with two home runs and seven RBIs. Against, right-handers, Harper is hitting .255.

“I love lefties. I really do,” Harper said. “I’m a little more calm against them. I try not to do too much. Against righties, I get so excited. I like righties a lot.”

Bench coach Randy Knorr said he is not surprised to see Harper having success against southpaws. Knorr managed Harper last year when both were with Triple A Syracuse and the Arizona Fall League.

“When I had him in the Fall League, we would have some tough lefties go against us and I would have guys that were left-handed [at the plate] and Bryce would make better adjustments already at his age,” Knorr said. “He was 18 at the time. They threw a couple of breaking balls at him and then he tried again and he hit [the ball somewhere]. He was already doing it back then. We have certain hitters who see the ball better than others.”

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