Results tagged ‘ Bryce Harper ’

Nats Grapefruit League Notes, 3/1

By Andrew Simon

VIERA, Fla. — Saturday’s Grapefruit League contest between the Nationals and Braves at Space Coast Stadium featured two teams that figure to be fighting each other for the National League East title. But after a brisk first two innings from starters Jordan Zimmermann and Julio Teheran, the game devolved into a sloppy affair that lasted three hours, 59 minutes and featured 31 runs, 37 hits, 14 walks, six errors and numerous misplays.

For what it’s worth, the Nats outlasted the Braves, 16-15. Here are some notes and observations from a long and crazy day at the ballpark:

– Zimmermann was on point, throwing 15 of his 20 pitches for strikes and getting five ground balls in six batters during two scoreless innings. As mentioned in today’s notebook, Zimmermann mixed in some nice changeups, a part of his repertoire that that he has developed very gradually in recent years.

– Bryce Harper played his first game of the spring, going four innings in left field and taking three plate appearances. He lined out sharply to first base, walked twice and stole a base.

– The Nats went 3-for-3 on steals in the third inning, with Denard Span stealing one on his own before pulling off a double steal of third and second with Harper. New manager Matt Williams wants his players to run the bases more aggressively, and they appear to be doing that in the early going.

– Most of the Nats pitchers after Zimmermann had a tough time, but veteran righty Luis Ayala — competing for one the last two bullpen spots — stopped the bleeding. He came in to protect a one-run lead with one out and the bases loaded in the eighth and induced an inning-ending double play, then pitched a scoreless ninth for the save. Ayala is a sinkerball artist who posted an excellent 59 percent groundball rate last season, mostly with Atlanta.

“He’s a guy that can have really quick innings,” Williams said. “An aggressive opposition, ball sinking down and in, a lot of ground balls. So that’s why we’re considering him and that’s why he’s here and it was a perfect situation today for him.”

– Michael Taylor, who is considered a strong defensive prospect in center field, had a rough day after entering the game in right. He made two errors on one play to allow Matt Lipka to circle the bases on a bloop hit down the line and later dropped a line drive into the right-center gap.

“We want to make sure he gets some reps out there,” Williams said. “Today’s a rough day for any right fielder, but he’ll get some more reps out there, too.”

Tomorrow: The Nats are back at Space Coast to take on the Marlins at 1:05 p.m. Doug Fister will start in his Washington debut, and fellow newcomer Jerry Blevins is scheduled to pitch as well. Jayson Werth is supposed to play for the first time this spring.

Looking ahead: Ross Detwiler will start against the Yankees on Monday in Tampa, and Stephen Strasburg will take the ball against the Braves on Tuesday in Lake Buena Vista. That would leave Gio Gonzalez as the one expected member of the rotation yet to pitch.

Worth noting: Although he called Saturday’s defensive sloppiness an “aberration,” Williams said his club will address the issue in a previously scheduled situational defense practice on Sunday.

Worth quoting: While passing a group of reporters in a hallway shortly after the game, Nats coach Mark Weidemaier, who is in charge of the club’s defense, quipped, “Coached the [heck] out of ‘em today!”

Further reading: Today’s notebook on Nationals.com also includes info on how Danny Espinosa will split his time between second base and shortstop this spring, the approach Williams wants prospect Zach Walters to take at the plate, and lefty Tyler Robertson aiming for a bullpen job.

Follow me on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB

[Updated] Left hip issue sidelines Harper two games

NEW YORK — Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper will miss the next two games against the Mets because of inflammation in his left hip, manager Davey Johnson said Monday.

After Saturday’s victory over the Marlins, Harper went back to Washington to get his hip checked out by the team doctors. Harper has had issues with the hip dating back to last Monday, when Johnson noticed that training assistant John Hsu was working on Harper. At the time, the trainers were treating it as if he had a sprained hip. Since then, Harper has missed three of the past five games.

It is currently unknown how Harper injured himself. With him out of action, Tyler Moore received the start in left field on Monday.

Harper has endured an injury-plagued 2013 season. He missed more than a month of action after banging his left knee into the right-field wall at Dodger Stadium on May 12.

Entering Monday, Harper was hitting .273 with 19 home runs and 49 RBIs. According to Johnson, Harper is expected to rejoin the team before Tuesday’s game. There isn’t any talk about shutting Harper down for the season.

“All the tests, the MRI and all that didn’t reveal any structural damage. There is just some inflammation in there. If you take care of that, he is good to go,”  Johnson said. “He has been playing. There are times where it has acted up, other times it hasn’t. [The doctors] don’t know what caused it.”

Harper dealing with hip injury

PHILADELPHIA — After Sunday’s 6-5 victory over the Mets,  Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper declined to say what was ailing him. But after Monday’s  3-2 loss to the Phillies, manager Davey Johnson revealed that Harper was dealing with a hip injury.

The skipper was upset that he wasn’t informed about Harper getting treatment on the hip until right before the game. But Harper told teammates such as Jayson Werth that he could play.

“I was really disturbed I wasn’t informed that he was having some treatment on his hip,” Johnson said. “But every time someone talks to Harp, he said, ‘I’m fine.’”

Harper, who was running the bases gingerly during Monday’s game, had a single and walk against the Phillies.

Johnson said he believes Harper will start Tuesday night against the Phillies.

Harper wouldn’t say much about his injury. He plans on playing as many games as he can before the season comes to an end.

“We have a month left . I’m going to play as hard as I can. I’ll worry about [the hip] in the end,” Harper said. “If I was hurting I would come out of the game. I feel good.”

It has not been an injury free season for Harper. He missed more than a month because of a left knee injury after banging into the wall at Dodger Stadium on May 13th.

Harper: ‘I could care less what people think’

By Tom Schad | Associate Reporter

Bryce Harper is a No. 1 Draft pick, National League Rookie of the Year and All-Star Game starter. He’s also 20 years old. He’s still growing up.

Sunday capped an eventful three-game series for the Nationals’ wunderkind. On Friday, he drew criticism from bench coach Randy Knorr for not running out a ground ball at a pivotal stage of the game. On Saturday, he was thrown out trying to stretch a double into a triple in a blowout. And on Sunday, he dropped a sacrifice bunt that helped fuel a three-run rally in the eighth inning.

Harper showed maturity in more than one way Sunday. Facing a tough lefty in Scott Rice, the 20-year-old laid down a bunt with two runners on and nobody out, a team-first move, instead of trying to be the hero with one swing of the bat.

“In the moment, baseball players play baseball,” said Jayson Werth, who drove in the winning run, “and that’s what he was doing right there.”

Manager Davey Johnson said that he did not give Harper the sign for a sacrifice bunt. He did it on his own.

“As tough times as we’ve had with hitting with runners in scoring position,” Johnson said, “putting the tying run down there ain’t a bad idea.”

Harper also showed growth after the game. When asked about the potential backlash the Nationals would have received with a sweep, he said he could care less.

“Screw what people think,” he said. “Everybody talks about us all year long saying we’re not going to make this or do that. I could care less what they think. It’s all what we think. I could really care less what the media thinks or anybody else. It’s nice to get that W tonight and, like I said, I could care less what people think.”

Harper was seen limping earlier in the game and said that while his previously-injured left knee was fine, “some other things [are] hurting me.” He declined to elaborate. Whether the injury affected his decision to bunt is unclear.

Injury aside, the decision to put the team before potential glory was a good one. It was an important one, too, both within the context of the game and outside of it.  Harper was able to put the national headlines of his jog to first and the ESPN television cameras at Sunday’s game behind him and just play baseball. And for a 20-year-old phenom, that’s sometimes the toughest thing to do.

Randy Knorr questions Harper’s hustle

By Tom Schad | Associate Reporter

Bryce Harper has become one of the most popular players in baseball because of the intensity that he brings to every play. But with two on and two out in the eighth inning on Friday, that intensity was lacking.

Harper fouled a 3-0 pitch from left-hander Scott Rice before hitting a routine ground ball to second base. The All-Star’s jog to first base would have gone unnoticed, except for the fact that Daniel Murphy bobbled the ball. Harper was easily thrown out and slammed his helmet on the ground.

After the game, bench coach Randy Knorr questioned Harper’s effort on the play.

“The thing about Bryce right now that’s tough [is] he gets frustrated,” said Knorr, who took over for Davey Johnson in the fourth inning Friday when the skipper left the dugout with an illness. “I don’t think he does it intentionally, but he’s going to have to start picking it up a little bit, because we’ve got everybody else doing it. He gets frustrated at times, and it just comes out of him. It’s something we’ve got to fix.”

Harper, who missed 31 games with bursitis in his left knee earlier this season, said he was confident that Murphy would have thrown him out on the play.

“I mean, ground out to Murphy. He’s pretty good over there, so in that situation I think he makes that play every single day,” Harper said.

Knorr agreed that Harper would’ve been thrown out on the play, even with maximum effort. But the bench coach also said that play was indicative of a larger trend this season.

“[It’s] something that we’ve got to get to the bottom of and keep talking to him, because eventually we’re just going to have to take him out of the game,” Knorr said. “He’s been trying, but it just shows up at times. Like in that situation, he’s got a chance to tie the ballgame up or go ahead and he doesn’t get it done. He knows he’s out, and it just comes out of him.”

Ryan Zimmerman was running to second base at the time and had his back turned to Harper. While he couldn’t say whether the 20-year-old went all-out in that instant, Zimmerman said that Harper plays hard every game like everyone else. Ian Desmond saw the play from the dugout steps.

“I know that when he got 3-0 and he let it go, I know that takes a lot of guts in that situation, lefty-lefty. Those same guts are going to be what makes us give this final push in this last month,” Desmond said. “As far as the baserunning goes, it takes guts also to run out the ones that you think are going to be outs. He does it 95, 99, almost 100 percent of the time, and I think this one might’ve just got pointed out because the guy made a bobble or whatever.

“I mean, he’s 20 years old and I think he’s still dealing with some emotions of the game,” Desmond continued. “It’s hard to remember a lot of the time that he is 20. What most of us were doing at 20 wasn’t this.”

Harper homers despite having bad foot

KANSAS CITY — It looked like Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper was going to leave Sunday’s game against the Royals in the sixth inning after he fouled a ball off his left foot.

Harper was slow getting up, but he remained in the game and singled to left field in the same inning.

“In a situation like that, I want to stay in there. I want to get some knocks and try to win that ballgame,” Harper said.

An inning later, Harper’s foot was still “throbbing” when he hit a two-run homer of Ervin Santana to tie the score at 4.

“He gave me a pitch I could drive. I got something I could do with it,” Harper said.

During the 10-game road trip, Harper went 14-for-37 [.378] with one home run and six RBIs.

“I’m just trying to go out there and just try to have good [at-bats] and good things will happen,” he said.” I’m going to try to walk a little bit more, just try to get on base … and try to win some ballgames.”

Wild weekend for Harper in Atlanta

ATLANTA — It was some kind of weekend for Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper at Turner Field.

On Friday against the Braves, Harper was hit twice by pitches and didn’t start the next game because of a left triceps injury, which occurred when he was hit by a Luis Avilan fastball.

“I really don’t want to comment on it,” Harper said on Sunday.

But right-hander Stephen Strasburg was able to get revenge for Harper on Saturday. Strasburg hit Justin Upton on the backside in the first inning after Jason Heyward’s leadoff home run, and warnings were issued to both benches.

Then with the Nationals leading, 4-1, Jordan Schafer led off the second inning and drew a walk. After that, Strasburg couldn’t throw a strike. With Andrelton Simmons at the plate, Strasburg threw three consecutive wild pitches, two of them behind Simmons’ back.

Home-plate umpire Marvin Hudson immediately threw Strasburg and manager Davey Johnson out of the game after the third wild pitch, which enabled Schafer to score.    Harper entered as a defensive replacement in the bottom of the ninth inning and played the rest of the game in left field, going 0-for-2 in the Nationals’ 8-7 win over the Braves in 15 innings.

In Washington’s 3-2 loss on Sunday, Harper went 2-for-4, but struck out to end the game. With a 1-2 count, Braves closer Craig Kimbrel threw a pitch and it appeared Harper checked his swing, but Hudson, the third-base umpire in this contest, said he swung at the pitch, ending the game. Harper was clearly upset and was arguing with the umpires until teammate Jayson Werth told Harper to walk away.

“The home-plate umpire [Wally Bell] said no three times. He doesn’t want to check,” Harper said. “They obviously check and they bang me. That’s one less pitch I see against [Kimbrel]. He is a great closer. Trying to see as many pitches [as I can] is huge.”

Throughout the weekend, Braves fans were jeering Harper. How did he feel about being the most hated member of the Nationals?

“I love these fans, I really do,” Harper said. “These people are absolutely unbelievable for their team. If I was playing for a team like this and a crowd like that, I’d be stoked to play every night, too.

“But I love playing in Nats Park, too. We have a great crowd, too. Going to Philly, going [to Atlanta], Fenway, New York, there are so many great crowds. This is a baseball organization that really loves the Braves.”

Harper’s big bunt: Nats surprise, reap benefits

By Andrew Simon

WASHINGTON — Bryce Harper owns one of baseball’s most violent and dangerous swings, so when he walks to the plate in a crucial situation with a runner in scoring position, he is expected to use it.

The Nationals defied those expectations during a key moment in Saturday night’s 8-5 comeback win against the Phillies.

It was Harper’s run-scoring bunt in the seventh inning that tied the game and set up Jayson Werth’s dramatic go-ahead home run one batter later. Asked to grade the bunt after the game, Werth gave it an “S for surprising,” and it certainly was that.

The Nationals entered the seventh training, 4-3. Phillies manager Charlie Manuel replaced starting pitcher Cliff Lee with another left-hander, Jake Diekman, and Nats skipper Davey Johnson sent up pinch hitter Steve Lombardozzi.

Lombardozzi got things started with a walk, moved to second on Denard Span’s sacrifice and then boldly stole third to move 90 feet from tying the game with Ryan Zimmerman at the plate.

“Well, [Diekman’s] real slow to the plate,” Johnson said. “He’s like 1.6, 1.7 [seconds]. That’s what you do. But [Lombardozzi’s] a smart baserunner. He had a good jump and he got in pretty easy.”

Zimmerman walked to put runners on the corners for Harper. On one hand, the 20-year-old is one of Washington’s deadliest hitters, not your usual candidate for a bunt. In his career, Harper had never driven home a run with a bunt, and he had used them for five sacrifices and one hit.

But a couple of factors, other than the element of surprise, made the bunt a more appealing proposition. For one thing, Harper hasn’t been the same offensive threat he was early in the year, entering Saturday hitting .225 with a .734 OPS since April 28. He went into that at-bat hitting .174 against lefties, with 26 strikeouts in 101 plate appearances. And lefties are 6-for-35 (.171) with 10 Ks against Diekman this year.

Johnson called for the bunt, later saying his reasoning was simply to, “get a run in.” Third base coach Trent Jewett passed Harper the signal to safety squeeze, meaning he only tries to bunt on a strike, and Lombardozzi only breaks for home if Harper gets it down.

Harper took a slider just inside for ball one. He later said Jewett took the bunt off on the 1-0 pitch, a slider down and away that Harper swung through. Jewett signaled for it again on the next pitch, and Harper hung with a slider up and inside. He got it in the air, but in the right spot, the ball shooting toward second base and reaching Chase Utley on one hop. With no play at home, and no chance for a double play, Utley took the force at second, and the game was tied.

“I mean, he hung a slider, so it kind of caught me off-guard a little bit,” Harper said. “I think if it was a fastball, it would’ve gone straight into the ground, because he has pretty good two-seam action on his fastball. The slider, I tried to hit it into right field, it looked like. Thankfully it fell in front of Utley and we got that run.”

Of getting called on to squeeze in that spot, Harper said, “I love it. I think it’s great.” It may have been a surprising call, but it worked.

“The last thing you want to do right there is hit into a double play,” Werth said. “Sometimes, first and third with one out and the game on the line like that, a bunt’s a good play if it works out. But a guy like Bryce, you want to see Bryce swing the bat. But when the guy he’s facing is a nasty lefty, Charlie Manuel would always talk about being creative in the moment. Bryce was definitely creative in the moment right there.”

Span’s home run drought finally ends

By Tom Schad | Associate Reporter

It took 105 games, but Nationals center fielder Denard Span finally hit a home run in Saturday’s 4-1 victory over the Mets.

After Ian Desmond hit a two-out bomb in the second inning, Span followed with a homer of his own on the very next pitch. The ball flew high into the air and barely cleared the right field wall.

“He swung at the first pitch. We all about fell out on the bench,” manager Davey Johnson joked.

Johnson said that batting Span seventh has allowed the center fielder to be more aggressive at the plate, and Span agreed. He said that instead of taking pitches and getting a feel for the opposing pitcher, he can instead concentrate on getting a good pitch and putting it in play.

“By the time I get up there, I’ve already seen six guys hit,” Span explained. “So, I already have a good idea of what that pitcher’s doing. When I get up there, if they’re going to throw me a first-pitch fastball, I’m going to swing. It’s different when I’m leading off, I try to see as many pitches as possible but hitting seventh there’s really no rules.”

As Span’s home run cleared the wall, he cruised around the bases, basking in the glory of his first home run in 422 plate appearances this season.

“Felt good to get the monkey off my back,” he said, smiling. “It hasn’t taken this long to hit a home run in a while. Probably since A-ball. But it felt good.

“My home run trot was definitely a little rusty. I think I stutter-stepped around third. I was just trying not to fall.”

Span touched home plate and jogged to the dugout, where he exchanged some emphatic high fives with teammates.

“Denard’s got some pop, so it was good to see him do that,” Bryce Harper said. “Hopefully he doesn’t get too cocky and stay a little humble.”

“I tell you what, after hitting one today it felt like I might hit 30 for the rest of the season,” Span said jokingly. “So you guys watch out for me.”

Rizzo believes Harper, Ramos will help offense

With the non-waiver Trade Deadline coming up on July 31, general manager Mike Rizzo said the Nationals’ top priority is getting outfielder Bryce Harper and catcher Wilson Ramos healthy and contributing to the offense, which is one of the lowest scoring in the Major Leagues.

Harper, who is on a rehab assignment with Class A Potomac, is expected to rejoin the Nationals next week against the Brewers. Ramos is close to a rehab assignment, according to manager Davey Johnson.

“We would like to see a big left-handed bat. His name is Harper and he is on the horizon,” Rizzo said.  “And we would like to get a hitting catcher named Ramos. He is on the horizon. And [we really want to] gauge and see what a fully healthy lineup looks like. Two of our main cogs have been out for an extended period. We haven’t had our lineup together since April 14. So we are getting players more and more healthy.

“Hopefully, everyone will be healthy at the same time. We’ll see what the lineup can do when we have all our players playing and everyone is starting to hit on all cylinders — really gauge where we are at.”

With right-hander Dan Haren on the 15-day disabled list, will the Nationals look for another starting pitcher before the deadline? Rizzo said the right-hander has to get healthy first.

“First of all, we have to get him healthy and see where he is at and we’ll evaluate a healthy Dan Haren and make our decision from there,” Rizzo said. “Like any other part of the roster, we want to see him at 100 percent, and I would gauge where we are at from there.”

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 56 other followers