Monday, February 20, 2012

Harper's plan: "Keep my mouth shut and play"

US Presswire file photo
Bryce Harper enters his second big-league camp feeling more comfortable.
VIERA, Fla. -- Bryce Harper reported for spring training today and made it clear what he must do to be included on the Nationals' Opening Day roster.

"I'm going to come in here, work as hard as I can, keep my mouth shut and play," he said.

In truth, the 19-year-old's path to Wrigley Field on April 5 is a bit more complicated than that. Simply showing up to camp, working hard and keeping his mouth closed isn't going to guarantee Harper anything.

But the gregarious right fielder does seem to understand that the spotlight will be fixed on him for the next six weeks, and it's up to him to prove he's ready to handle the attention ... not to mention big-league pitching.

One year ago, Harper (barely 18 and barely removed from high school) reported for his first professional spring training and looked the part. He stood out like a sore thumb in the Nationals' clubhouse, a cocky teenager among men.

As he made his way through that same clubhouse today, though, Harper looked like he belonged more. He already knows most of the other players. He already knows the daily routine.

"I'm pretty comfortable this year, knowing guys around me," he said. "I'm just a lot more comfortable in here this year, and I'm excited to see what happens."

What will happen? The company line remains the same: The Nationals will keep an open mind on bringing Harper north with them at the end of camp, but the odds continue to be against that happening. Ideally, they'd like for him to get a few at-bats at Class AAA Syracuse before making his big-league debut, not wanting to risk rushing a player who only has one season of professional experience to this point.

Harper does have a big supporter, though, in manager Davey Johnson, who has never been afraid to throw a talented, young player to the wolves. "It's huge to have the manager on your side," Harper said.

Johnson perhaps softened his stance today on the 2010 No. 1 pick making the club out of spring training, citing the influx of left-handed bats the Nationals signed late this winter. At the same time: "He's still in the mix to have an opportunity," Johnson said and suggested Harper will see significant playing time against big-league competition this spring.

On the field, Harper believes he's made major strides in the last year, especially in the outfield. A converted catcher, he feels more comfortable now in right field and has learned how and when to cut loose on throws.

"I made a lot of progress in the outfield, and I'm still going to try to make progress out there," he said. "I want to be a Gold Glove out there, too. I don't want to just be known as a hitter."

Off the field, Harper understands he needs to show he's ready to be a big leaguer, whether that's how he comports himself in the clubhouse or even how he presents himself on his newest passion: Twitter.

Harper has taken some heat for his honest answers via his Twitter account, but he loves interacting with fans and doesn't want to change that.

"That's just the way I am," he said. "I like giving them the real me. I want them to know the real me."

Even if you open yourself to criticism by declaring yourself a fan of the Lakers, Cowboys and Duke basketball?

"I'm going to get blown up either way," Harper said. "If I say something right or something wrong, that's just how it's going to be. There's nothing I can really do about that. Some things maybe I shouldn't say, and some things I've got to learn from. And there are some things I should just keep my mouth shut on. I need to grow up in that aspect, I guess. But I feel good about what I say and I'm not going to back down from anything."

Ultimately, Harper believes the decision when to promote him to the majors is a baseball decision. So that's where his focus will be over the next six weeks, playing every day "with fire" and hoping by the end of camp he's convinced the right people he deserves to be a big leaguer at 19.

"That's the best I can do," he said. "If they want to send me back down, that's them. But I want to be up here, like I said. I want to play in D.C."

50 comments:

sunderland said...

Harper is really setting steep goals for himself, huh?
Trying to make the team is tough enough, but keeping his mouth shut too? That's gonna be a hard one to maintain.

phil dunn said...

Smart move!

SonnyG10 said...

I like Bryce and his attitude. Still think he plays a few weeks in AAA though.

SilverSpring8 said...

He goes to Syracuse until mid-June. It's a business decision.

Anonymous said...

The issue is that Harper said he wanted to be Joe Namath "off the field." Who cares that he is a Duke fan?

Anonymous said...

He's gonna make the roster. He's your starting RF for the Washington Nationals. Influx of LHB's they signed this off-season?! Ha!

Davey loves himself some offense and he can get comparable D and a lot more O with no Desmond and no Bernadina or Ankiel in CF either.

Here's the it-would-be-a-shocker-but-I'd-love-to-see-it lineup for Opening Day:

Lombo (ss)
Harper
Zim
LaRoche
Morse
Werth
Espinosa
Ramos
Stras

Nats win 7-2.

(You flip Harper and Desi, and LaRoche and Morse, in the lineup against LHP)

SCNatsFan said...

No way you give up a year of Harper for 6 weeks now. Fiscally irresponsible.

I think Harper is going to be a player we love while he is here and going to hate when he is gone; he is just such the bigmouth Yankee you just know he ends up there becoming the new straw that stirs the drink. No reason for us to speed that up by bringing him up early.

And for those who think it doesn't make a difference, look at what has happened because we gave Detwiler a cup of coffee. If you are unsure go ask Lannan what it can do to a roster.

Gonat said...

I think he goes to Syracuse and when he is in a nice 7 to 10 game hot streak Bryce will get the call.

You don't piss away an extra year of control right now.

whatsanattau said...

$15M and another season under contract says he starts in the minors and is called up in June.

Don said...

Don't forget his 6 errors in 20 games with the Arizona League last fall. If he doesn't get his defensive skills in place we don't see him before September.

NatsBrat said...

So Lombo at SS in your Opening Day line-up Anon 4:33?

Based on what??? I hope it wasn't his BA last September with the Nats.

BTW, Desmond hit better at AAA than your new friend.

Anonymous said...

No, Desmond did not hit better at any level than Lombo. Other than Lombo's ability to field well and hit for average and OBP and his decent speed, he has no chance. In order for Desmond to be the guy at SS he needs to be the guy at SS. If he's looking bad in the Spring, why is it beyond reason that he could star in Cuse? Ian has options left.

nats guy said...

The 6 weeks i not about control it is about super 2.

Anonymous said...

Actually, Desmond hit like mad in like 50-60 games for 'Cuse in 09, his magic year. So he does have better numbers at AAA than Lombo (in a smaller sample). But, Lombo crushes his numbers at all other levels in the minors. Desmond never hit above .260 at any other level for years.

Anonymous said...

It's called Karma. Nats avoided Super 2 with Stras, the good news, and then lost the year to injury anyway, the bad news. A guy like Harper is thinking HOF is in his future and the potential games played now that could make him ROY, or move him closer to some career counting stat that gets him to Cooperstown is on the line in these 6 or so weeks. He wants to be in the Show, the team should at least consider bucking its money-saving tendencies and give the kid a break if he earns it on the field. Maybe Karma will shine on the club if they do.

nationals7 said...

I think he'll follow his dad's advice.

Anonymous said...

Just read tightness in Wang's surgically repaired shoulder. And so it starts.

NatsNuts said...

Periculum at 4:33 Idiot

Positively Half St. said...

I think Harper will be just fine.

On another note from ealier today:

At the same time that many complain about how negative JayB is, I think we should also celebrate how positive natsfan1a is. Ray of sunshine.

+1/2St.

Positively Half St. said...

nats guy-

I think the 6 weeks are about control. The Super 2 thing takes even longer.

+1/2St.

MicheleS said...

I read somewhere that it takes 21 days in the minors for us to keep Harper that extra year. I don't know with the new CBA when Super 2 starts. Isn't usually the first week of June?

MicheleS said...

And I will add JaneB to that ...

+1/2 St..
I think we should also celebrate how positive natsfan1a is. Ray of sunshine.

Positively Half St. said...

MicheleS-

Agreed, although I would add you, as well.

Here's where I ensure I am not in that crowd, I am afraid- Jason Michaels and Brett Carroll don't excite me as stopgaps to Bryce. Their career stats are pretty lame. This, of course, is why scouts help make these decisions, and not guys who casually look at a couple of stats.

And anyway- Jeremy Lin has given a new hope to benchwarmers everywhere.

+1/2St.

Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me said...

As much as I'd love to "Bring the Best 25 North," Brash Bryce starts at SYR and then makes it here by Father's Day. Unless he bats .600 in ST. And I'm hoping like mad he does.

NatsFanJim said...

Let's stop playing games: bring Harper north on opening day. You would rather have Ankiel, Bernadina, or until his retirment Cameron?? I dont believe it. So, lets stop playing these little games -- bring the kid North.

NatsFanJim said...

To Anon at 4:33 p.m.

LaRoche batting 4th? That's a joke, right?

NatsFanJim said...

LaRoche is a notorious slow starter. He doesnt even start to warm up until mid July. For his 8 million bucks annually that he got out of the then desparate Nats, I'll bet many on this forum call for his job by mid May, if not sooner.

Hodges14 said...

I've been sitting here all off-season shaking my head regarding the Harper situation. Johnson, who is a good manager (not a great one though; one championship with several teams that were as good or better than the Nats are now), is letting his ego again get in the way vs. what's best for the organization. He keeps pointing to Gooden. When you have a 97 mph fast ball and a great curve and can locate both, it may not matter how young you are. But this is a hitter. The stats I see from 19-year olds (like Griffey, Kaline etc) were good, but certainly not great. They became great players a year or two later. The problems are mental as well as physical. Gooden and Strawberry were supposedly sure Hall of Famers too, but how'd that work out? And Harper appears to be a lot more immature than Gooden was at the time. Throw in the Super 2 and free agent clocks and to start him in the majors when he hasn't had one AAA at bat and is still raw defensively and on the bases makes no sense. We're going to lose him when he becomes a 6-year free agent due to his agent and his desire for the NY bright lights so they'll probably have to trade him before then. The Nats year is probably 2013 so why not get him in the lineup when he's better able to handle things-- like July at the earliest. He's not ready mentally and probably physically for the majors yet so why start him up here--just so Davey can say I brought up a future Hall of Famer to the majors when he was only 19? I hope Rizzo is smarter than that because when Harper is playing for the Yankees, Davey will be fishing in Florida but the Nats will still be needing to win baseball games.

Anonymous said...

LaRoche has batted clean-up the bulk of his career folks, against RHP he's likely your 4 hitter on OD, well, unless Harper is.

greg said...

i think he will have to look like a world-beater in spring training to avoid those 21 days in the minors.

and even then, i really can't see how 21 days on the roster in april justify 1 full year less of control. it makes absolutely no sense to me. forget the super2 stuff, if he's good enough to earn the cash, they'll happily pay it. but the FA clock is *WAY* more important and the tradeoff for 21 days is just way too steep.

everything i've read about lombardozzi has said 2B (or 3B), but that he isn't/won't be a good SS in the majors. i don't remember exactly what the evaluations said about why, but i think the nats would only see him as SS in a utility role, not as a starter.

Captain Obvious said...

Um. Has it occurred to anyone that Davey and Rizzo are playing good cop/bad cop here to motivate Harper and get him to buy into Davey as someone on "his side"? Seems like pretty basic motivational mind games.

Why anyone takes any of the public pronouncements of a manager or GM without a heaping of salt, I will never understand...

Anonymous said...

Hodges -- Johson has finished 1st or 2nd in his Division TWELVE times. If there is a guy in the bigs managing right now who's done better with 15 or so years and on 4 different clubs and in both leagues (not counting the Nats) I would be shocked, maybe Leyland? What I am getting at is that the guy knows something about what he's doing. And if ever there was a 19 yr old ready for the bigs, it is this kid. He's been ahead of every development curve on the field and he's a phsyical marvel not some growing into his frame kid. The maturity stuff is a red hearing -- if he can play, he can play. At the end of the day, IF Johnson says the kid should play, how can people say -- other than for pure money reasons -- that Harper should not play? It would be crazy to say that Davey Johnson's estimation of his development was not credit worthy.

Wally said...

MicheleS said...
I read somewhere that it takes 21 days in the minors for us to keep Harper that extra year. I don't know with the new CBA when Super 2 starts. Isn't usually the first week of June?

Yes to the first. The Super Two date isn't a date - its the top 17% of service time guys in each service class, (I think) but that number has been raised in the new CBA. It used to work out to the first or second week of June, but now is estimated for mid July.

I don't think Super Two will factor into Harper's timing, unless he struggles early or his promotion otherwise gets pushed to mid July anyway.

Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me said...

Anonymous 6:52 writes, and I quote:
"The maturity stuff is a red hearing..."

That would be under that notorious manager, Sen. Joseph McCarthy, during that awful season of 1954, right?

Sheesh, a spell checker in the wrong hands is a wonderful thing to waste...

Mick said...

I hope we are not the Twins of 2011, lots a hype and they went into the tank right away, no injuries, just in the tank

Anonymous said...

Spellcheck is for people either too concerned to make a mistake or too concerned what people will think about them if they make a mistake. It might engender some negative response. Oh dear. You know what I meant to type, Sister Ann Ellen of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

And misplaced McCarthyism (did I spell that right??) references are always a mistake no matter how yu spel them.

Anonymous said...

No injuries on the Twins? Morneau? Mauer? Span? Kubel?

greg said...

yeah, i was a little confused by the "no injuries on the twins" comment, too.

sure, there were some bad years by some guys. you don't end up that bad without some playing below expectations, but they definitely had some injuries (whether new or lingering (like morneau)) to key players.

Anonymous said...

Sure, you would say that, you illiterate running dog.

natsfan1a said...

Thanks for the kind words, PHS.

Spellcheck might not flag "hearing" because it's a real word, unlike, say, "herrink," which it would flag. (Geez, the former proofreader in me really dislikes having to stick up for spellcheck. But I digress.)

On topic, I suppose the roster situation will play itself out and the best 25 will go north (that one's on me for all of you drinking game players :-)).

Anonymous said...

Best 25 go North! Commies or otherwise.

dfh21

(missed you guys today -- Zuck's a busy dude, no?)

baseballswami said...

Actually I think the majority of people who post here are positive, funny and informative. I also think that LaRoche is going to struggle at first and so is Harper.I think it's just part of the process and you have to go through it and be patient. Good things do not come instantly or easily.The hard work, patience and struggles are what make the end results so rewarding - in baseball and in life.

Sec 3, My Sofa said...

Do nuns and sisters take part in the chickfests? I have a feeling we're about to find out...

Section 222 said...

I haven't noticed that the comment box has a spell checker that corrects anything automatically. :-)

SCNatsFan, you're absolutely right about the absurdity of bringing up Harper so early (i.e. less than 21 days into the season) that you burn a year of team control. Not going to happen, no matter what DJ says. (And Captain Obvious has (1) a good theory that Rizzo and DJ are playing good cop/bad cop to motivate Harper; and (2) the right idea that spoonfuls of salt are needed to swallow anything they say at this point).

There's no comparison, however, to Bowden stupidly giving Detwiler a cup of coffee the year he was drafted. That burned an option (not a year of team control) and is the reason Det doesn't have any left -- putting Lannan on the bubble to make the 25 man out of ST. I think it's a fair bet that Harper won't need any option years once he comes up.

Anonymous said...

NatsNuts said...
Periculum at 4:33 Idiot


NOT ME NUMBNUTS I wouldn't post that drivel.
Stop stealing Natsnut's handle dude. Let her
have her handle stop the plagiarism.

0a88cbbc-5be2-11e1-a5be-000bcdcb8a73 said...

I think Harper and the Nats are lucky to have Davey Johnson a key force in the final decision. He's so very experienced with young talent. I have confidence in his judgement.

Richard Moore said...

I just posted the message about the Nats being lucky to have Davey Johnson as a key force in the final decision on Harper but for some reason I can no longer post via my AIM moniker Rmoore446, which I have used for years on this blog.

Oh well, I'll select another profile.

SCNatsFan said...

sec222, you are right... my point was not to make short sighted decisions that hamper the team in the future. As much as you want to win now you can't ignore what lies in the future.

Rabbit said...

There's nothing odd about Harper being a fan of the Lakers, Cowboys and Duke. What's odd is people who think that's odd and make a big deal of it. If Houston finished last and got Harper, then I guess it wouldn't be odd for him to be a fan of the Cowboys? People just don't have enough to do with all their time.

Anonymous said...

Has the swarm of fans bothered Harper yet for autographs? Do the Nats plan to have a "special" line for Harper and Strasburg this year for fans to get autographs in Spring training or are they going to be accessible like the other players (with the expection of Zim and Werth who avoid fans like the plague).

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