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Bryce Harper legs out an infield single in the sixth inning last night.
Teammates and coaches alike have marveled at how hard the 19-year-old plays the game and how he never seems to take his foot off the gas pedal.
Harper was up to it again last night against the Mets, beating out what looked like a routine grounder to third base in the top of the sixth.
"He plays hard," manager Davey Johnson said. "He's a throwback. He plays the game right."
Facing Mets left-hander Danny Herrera -- owner of a big, swooping curveball -- Harper decided to try an unconventional method for reaching base. Instead of taking a full hack at Herrera's offerings, he instead tried to sneak up to the front of the batter's box and poke the ball to the left side of the field while his legs already started moving down the first-base line.
"I just tried to 'Ichiro' it," Harper said, referring to the Mariners great who has made a living out of that fast-pitch softball-style swing. "I just tried to put the bat on the ball. That happened, and I just started running."
Harper never saw the ball head toward third base, and he never saw New York's Vinny Rottino make the routine play and then throw to first. He was too busy screaming down the line, beating the throw to record a base hit and impressing even the opposing dugout.
"Shoot, he play hard," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "He runs every ball out. He runs the bases hard and slides hard. It was pretty impressive."
Harper's overall performance this spring has proven to be pretty impressive. In addition to his hustle single last night, he also bounced a base hit up the middle in the second inning and drew a walk in the fourth. He's now 4-for-7 in three Grapefruit League games. If you add last Friday's exhibition against Georgetown, he's 4-for-9 with a pair of walks (producing a .545 on-base percentage).
All four hits so far have been singles, and all four have been on the ground. But Harper isn't concerned so much with power numbers at this stage.
"They're hits. That's all that matters," he said. "If it's on the ground or through the hole or up the middle, they're hits. That's all that matters. It doesn't matter to me if it goes 500 feet or if goes 20 feet. They're hits."