US Presswire photo
Bryce Harper swings and misses at a pitch during today's game against the Astros.
When Livan Hernandez saw Harper step to the plate in the top of the second this afternoon, the wily vet figured he could fool the headstrong rookie with one of his trademark slow curveballs.
And for a moment, it looked like Livo's thinking was spot-on. Harper took a mighty cut at the slow curve and didn't come close to making contact.
Score one for the old guy? Not necessarily. Harper wasn't surprised by the pitch at all.
"I was actually hoping he'd throw me curveball first pitch," Harper said after the game. "It was just down and I swung right through it. I made a commitment to it."
Hernandez, who joined the Astros this winter on a minor-league contract after spending parts of seven of the last nine seasons with the Nationals franchise, ultimately surrendered a groundball single to Harper on a 2-1 pitch. That was one of three hits the 37-year-old right-hander surrendered over two scoreless innings against his former club.
"I never played with Livo, but he knows what he's doing out there," Harper said. "He's very smart, keeps the ball down."
Making his second consecutive start, first in an official Grapefruit League game, Harper finished 1-for-3 with that early single off Hernandez and then a pair of groundballs to second off Houston relievers Brett Myers and Brandon Lyon.
The top pick in the 2010 draft is not scheduled to be in the lineup tomorrow when these two teams meet again in Viera, but he is expected to receive plenty of playing time this spring as the Nationals decide whether he's ready to make the Opening Day roster or not.
"It's nice knowing I'm going to be able to start and see different guys and different arms," he said. "To know I'm going to get three at-bats a game is nice."