CINCINNATI — Friday night was the worst offensive night of Bryce Harper’s 14-day-old major league career. He was 0-for-5 with three strikeouts, a fly to center and a weak grounder to the first base side.
But it was the physical damage he did to himself that will leave a mark on the 19-year-old, at least for the next few days. Harper had a golf ball-sized welt above the corner of his left eye and required 10 stitches to close a wound opened when Harper slammed his bat into the dugout wall in frustration and had it bounce back into his head.
“I just got caught up in the moment,” Harper said, blood still staining the hair on the back of his head after he spent much of the seventh and eighth innings wiping it off his face.
“I want to do so well. It just got me.”
After his at-bat in the seventh inning, in which he ground an 0-1 splitter to first, Harper grabbed a bat and went to take some of his frustration out on the wall in the tunnel leading to the visitors’ dugout at Great American Ball Park. No one in the dugout batted an eye at this act.
“He was very frustrated that he was not centering on the ball and that’s what ballplayers do,” said Nationals manager Davey Johnson. “(They) break bats down in the runway, throw helmets. That’s not anything new. It’s an easy way to get rid of your frustrations. I hear it a lot. I don’t try to monitor it one way or another. It’s just a way of venting.”
Johnson said it was “more than likely” that Harper would miss a few games, anticipating that the already full welt would be swollen on Saturday. But Harper said he did not expect to miss any time.
“I think I’m good,” he said, adding that he never felt woozy or dazed and didn’t undergo a concussion test. “(The) doctor said I could play, so I’m going to play.”
Harper was in good spirits about the incident, smiling as he summoned reporters to his locker. Shortstop Ian Desmond was already calling him Bam Bam. Even Johnson said he didn’t think anything of it until he saw the blood streaming down his face late in the game. He did, however, plan to address it with Harper.
“I’ll speak to him about it because evidently he went a little overboard,” Johnson said. “Because the bat bounced off the wall and cut his eye and he needs stitches. That’s not what you want to do. The equipment’s supposed to take the brunt of it.”
“I guess I won’t do it anymore,” Harper said. “But, I don’t know. I’ve done it a million times. It’s just a heat of the moment kind of thing and, you know, just came back and got me.”
He did take his at-bat in the ninth inning on Friday, striking out to end the frame, but was then pulled for Xavier Nady for the bottom half of the inning as Johnson wanted the Nationals’ trainers to take care of the wound. The Nationals will re-evaluate Harper on Saturday before any decision is made on his status for the game.