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Williams slots Harper sixth, cites running game

NEW YORK -- After getting hit on the head by Eric Young's knee during Monday's Opener, Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper was OK to start against the Mets on Wednesday night.

Harper was hitting sixth in the order, and manager Matt Williams said he wanted to take the pressure off Harper as well as open up Harper's game as far as the running game is concerned. Williams doesn't want Harper to hit near the top of the order. If Harper is on base, for example, Williams doesn't want him to attempt to steal a base with Jayson Werth or Ryan Zimmerman at the plate.

"[By hitting sixth], it allows him to use his legs, and I think that is important," Williams said. "We look at tonight as an example. [Mets pitcher] Bartolo Colon is really quick to the plate. Whether it's an opportunity to [steal bases], you never know. We want to give him the option to do so. He is a five-tool guy. He can beat that other team in many ways. We want to give him an opportunity to do that.

"From a manager's perspective, if I hit him second in front of Jayson and Zim, do I really want him to try to steal second? We are one swing away from a two-run homer or a three-run homer. That's the logic. Most of all, I want him to be free and play and not have those boundaries on him. For me, over the long run, Harper will drive in big runs for us."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. Andrew Simon contributed to this report.
Read More: Washington Nationals, Bryce Harper