- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 12, 2012

CINCINNATI — A day later, they could laugh about it.

The welt above Bryce Harper’s left eye was still there, if smaller than it had been 20 hours before, and a band-aid covered up the 10 stitches needed to close the wound opened in violent fashion in the seventh inning Friday night.

The bat, the one Harper took into the tunnel inside the visitors’ dugout at Great American Ball Park and slammed into the wall in frustration, only to have it not break in half as he expected and, instead, carom into his head, was in fine shape, too.

Harper was back in the lineup on Saturday, having texted Nationals manager Davey Johnson late Friday night to reassure him he was all right and wanted to play. Johnson didn’t OK it until he got a look at the right fielder, but once he saw him, he agreed to write his name on the lineup card. “Maybe,” Johnson thought, “he can take out that anger on the opposing pitcher today.”

Harper, who’d never needed stitches before Friday night, was in good spirits Saturday afternoon as several people stopped by his locker to see how he was doing. He embraced the nickname bestowed on him by shortstop Ian Desmond, who called him “Bam Bam,” a name he’s been called before as B.A.M is also his initials (Bryce Aaron Max). And he avoided watching ESPN, he said, not interested in seeing replays of his night on loop. Otherwise, he didn’t seem to be affected too much by the incident.

He could laugh about it now, because he was fine.

But the truth of the matter is Harper avoided serious injury. 

“We were actually very fortunate,” Johnson said. “It could have been a heck of a lot worse.

“I talked to him about it. Last night was one of the few times all year I thought he was overly aggressive. … Obviously, the whole night he was overly aggressive. He hit that wall pretty hard. Maybe it knocked some sense into him.

And since his health was fine, of more importance Saturday was getting him back on track offensively.

Harper had the worst night of his two-week-old major league career Friday night, going 0-for-5 with three strikeouts, a result, Johnson felt, of the 19-year-old chasing pitches out of the zone and getting beat on offspeed stuff.

“Last night was one of the few times all year I thought he was overly aggressive,” Johnson said. “He’s been very patient, making them throw it the strike zone. Last night, they were throwing him a lot of offspeed stuff, and he was chasing.”

Harper enters Saturday night’s game hitting .233 and still looking for his first major league home run.