Bryce Harper attended the Nationals’ optional workout on Tuesday afternoon, as did the rest of his teammates, but the 19-year-old was still battling a fever over 100 degrees and was hoping to kick his illness, believed originally to be strep throat, by the time the Nationals play at 1:07 p.m. on Wednesday.
“I feel fine,” said Harper, who has been on prescribed antibiotics to help speed the process along.
On then, to more pressing matters like his 1-for-10 in the first two games of the National League Division Series, his jet-black hair that made a sudden appearance on Saturday and the reappearance of the eye-black smears that look like war paint on his face Monday afternoon.
With regard to his offensive performance, in which Harper has struck out six times but seen 49 pitches over the course of the two games, Harper has maintained his confident and calm demeanor.
“It’s two games,” he said. “It’s not the end of the world. I’ve got three more games left and we’re at home and hopefully I can get to raking.”
“He’s going to be fine,” said Nationals manager Davey Johnson, asked about Harper’s approach at the plate. “I noticed today he’s back to his natural hair color. That pleases me.”
Harper spent the majority of the season earning praise and respect from his teammates for cutting out stuff like the hair dye and the eye black, for fitting in as one of them and keeping the focus on his exceptional play. A few of the veterans did speak to him about it popping back up now.
“He hasn’t done this kind of stuff all year and then obviously now he’s done it, but if the biggest thing we have to worry about is his hair I think we’ll be OK,” said third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, chuckling to himself at some of the fun they’ve been poking at Harper for the hair color.
“I think Bryce is one of those guys that, at his age it’s amazing how he performs on stages that a lot of people get overanxious on and do some things that they probably shouldn’t. Sure he’s probably done a couple of those in his first couple of games but I think he gives us a better chance to win and that’s why he’s on his team.”
The concerns over silliness like his hair and his eye black, of course, are minimal. What matters to the Nationals is how he plays and they still have zero complaints in that department. Harper was one of, if not the, best player for the Nationals in September when he hit .330 with seven homers, eight doubles and three triples.
“At the end of the day he can do whatever he wants,” Zimmerman said. “But that doesn’t mean we’re not going to give him a hard time like we’ve done all year. Its who he is. He’s an outspoken (person), that’s who he is. That’s part of his gig.
“I think what makes him the player he is, as well. Because he’s not afraid to be himself.”