WASHINGTON -- The night before the Nationals' 7-5 victory over the Giants on Saturday afternoon at Nationals Park, Bryce Harper received a call from his skipper, Dave Martinez, wondering about his comfort level in center field. Harper had not played there since Oct. 3, 2015, but with the Nats' influx
WASHINGTON -- The night before the Nationals' 7-5 victory over the Giants on Saturday afternoon at Nationals Park, Bryce Harper received a call from his skipper, Dave Martinez, wondering about his comfort level in center field. Harper had not played there since Oct. 3, 2015, but with the Nats' influx of outfielders, Martinez was considering starting Harper there in order to create room and playing time for everyone.
Harper assured Martinez that he felt comfortable in center field, and he enjoyed it as he roamed around there on Saturday.
"I feel fine. Just try to go out there and be athletic and do the things I can to help the team win," Harper said. "Whatever [Martinez] wants to do, then I'm all for it."
Harper also connected on his 19th home run of the year in the fourth inning, when he hammered a breaking ball from left-hander Ty Blach 437 feet over the right-center-field wall, according to Statcast™. It was his first homer this month, and it increased his National League-leading total.
And Harper held his own in center field. He made a sliding catch on Austin Jackson's lineout to limit the Giants to three runs in the third inning.
"I just enjoy playing every day," Harper said. "Don't matter where I'm at."
As Martinez tries to balance playing time for five outfielders, it is likely Harper will get more opportunity to play center field, because it frees up Juan Soto and Adam Eaton to remain as corner outfielders. Harper will not be the regular center fielder -- in fact, Michael A. Taylor will almost certainly start in center on Sunday -- but it gives Martinez another option if he decides to use it.
When Martinez made a double switch on Saturday and replaced Eaton with Brian Goodwin, who took over in center and bumped Harper back to right, Harper wondered why.
"We were like, 'Relax a little bit right now,'" Martinez said with a laugh. "[Harper] sees the ball better in center, and typically you do. When I played center field, I felt more comfortable than when I played the corners."
Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.