LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Bryce Harper was tested minimally in center field Wednesday night, recording two putouts and testing the left calf that had kept him out of the previous six games with several dashes in the outfield, tagging up on the basepaths and some sprints on the warning track after he was pulled.
After the game, Harper cleared up a few things — namely that his mentality on making the Nationals’ 25-man roster out of spring training has not changed.
A report Tuesday from CBSsports.com quoted Harper as saying “probably not,” when asked if he still had a chance to make the team after missing six straight games with his calf injury. He did not say Wednesday night that he’d been misquoted, but just that, as things stood, the statement didn’t accurately reflect his sentiments. Harper appeared to regret saying what he did.
“Yesterday, I don’t know what happened with that,” Harper said. “But I’m for sure trying to make this club. I want to frickin’ go up there, try and win. I’ve never had that mentality to say, ‘Ah, probably not.’ Or, ‘Ah, I don’t want to make the club.’ I’m shooting to be one of the top 25 guys on this team and get up there to D.C. and try to win. That’s my main goal.”
It wasn’t the only topic that Harper tackled Wednesday night, though, moving past the comment (which Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo addressed earlier in the day and said Harper was still in the mix for the team as the Nationals “haven’t made any decision to the contrary,”) and on to playing center field.
It was the first time this spring Harper has played center — a position he played just 20 times in his first professional season — but Harper moved around a lot in 2011. He played predominantly in right field, especially out of the gate with Single-A Hagerstown, but played mostly in left field once he was promoted to Double-A. Center, though, is the favored spot for the converted catcher and he’s hoping Nationals manager Davey Johnson slots him in the lineup there more often.
“I like center field a lot,” Harper said. “It’s a lot easier to play out there. Just the angles to the ball and everything like that, seeing the whole field. It’s one of my favorite spots.”
Needless to say Harper was excited to be back in a game after missing the past week. He admitted “my A.D.D. kicked in there for a little bit,” and he was pestering Johnson the past few nights to let him let him get in a game. As soon as he came out on Wednesday, Johnson asked him if he’d be OK to go on Thursday. Harper skipped ahead.
“Am I going to Tampa (on Friday)?” he asked.
“I said, ‘You’re a rookie, aren’t you? Yeah, you’re going.’”
The next two days will represent Harper’s first chance to face the New York Yankees. Harper had the advance report on the Yankees on the tip of his tongue when asked, and you could tell he was excited about the prospect of facing Michael Pineda on Thursday, but especially CC Sabathia on Friday.
“Oh, man, that’s going to be fun,” Harper said when asked about the prospect of facing the big lefty. “It’s going to kind of crazy to have CC, a frickin’ train coming at you. He’s kind of big on the bump.”