Harper in lineup day after being pulled out of game
Nationals teammates respect manager's decision to remove left fielder
WASHINGTON -- Just as Nationals manager Matt Williams said after Saturday's game, left fielder Bryce Harper was right back in the team's lineup for Sunday's game against the Cardinals. Harper was batting second a day after getting pulled to start the seventh inning for not hustling to first base on a ground ball back to the mound.
Harper's teammates continued to say they weren't surprised at what happened. Relief pitcher Drew Storen pointed out that the team had meetings on the subject before and during the season and agreed to the rules Williams enforced.
"I respect it, because you know what, you can't bend the rules," Storen said. "It is what it is. It's part of it, part of the game."
Kevin Frandsen, who replaced Harper in left field Saturday, described it as an unwritten rule.
"That stupid unwritten rule thing, it's not stupid, it's just how the game is supposed to be played," said Frandsen, whom the Nationals signed near the end of Spring Training. "So it didn't surprise me."
Frandsen remembers seeing the same type of situation occur while playing for the Phillies the past two years. In that case, it was veteran shortstop Jimmy Rollins who got in trouble with then-manager Charlie Manuel over a lack of hustle.
For example, Rollins was benched during a game against the Mets in August 2012 for jogging to first base after hitting a popup that was dropped. That prevented Rollins from having a chance to take second on the play.
"I just got to a place where it's a reflection on myself," Manuel said at the time. "It's a reflection on our team. It reflects on our organization."
Harper, on the other hand, is only 21. While there have been situations in which he might have shown a lack of hustle, there have been others in which he might have gone too hard on the bases or in the field, even resulting in injury.
It's a delicate balance for such a young player to find.
"It's part of the learning process," Storen said. "You hear it all the time about how young he is and for him to be learning and developing at the big league level, it's pretty tough to do. And he's got all the expectations and all the spotlight on him, so he's got a lot. He's done a great job."
There were no issues with Harper's hustle Sunday. He went 1-for-4 with a walk, running hard on both of his two groundouts in Washington's 3-2 win. He also picked up his first stolen base of the season in the eighth.
Williams said he had a good talk with Harper before the game.
"[I] just sat with him for a couple minutes at his locker and told him I'm confident in him and proud of him and he was going to have an impact today, which he did," Williams said. "He had an impact getting a hit, stealing a base and giving us another opportunity. [He] made some nice plays in the outfield. [He] did well."