NEW YORK — The day after Bryce Harper took 54 vicious swings off his father, Ron, in the Home Run Derby, the Washington Nationals outfielder was feeling “a little fatigued,” but not significantly worse for the wear.
He smiled and took more questions from the media early Tuesday afternoon, before getting into his uniform and heading out to the field — to take more swings.
But the way he was feeling was good news for the Nationals, who don’t want something like the Home Run Derby, or Tuesday night’s All-Star game — in which Harper started in center field and hit ninth — to affect his health for the second half.
Nationals head trainer Lee Kuntz, also honored as an All-Star this year, monitored Harper closely Monday night, mostly trying to ensure that the 20-year-old stayed hydrated enough during the nearly three-hour competition.
“I was out there the whole time,” Kuntz said. “It was like three different [batting practice] sessions. When you watch those competitions over the years, the guy who hits all the home runs, he’s always exhausted [by the end].”
“I mean, he’s thrown more than 120 pitches to me before,” Harper said. “I think we’ve gone through, I don’t even know how many dozen baseballs. At least five or six buckets. It’s something that we’ve done before and 120 pitches isn’t that much for him. Those kind of swings, I took a lot of pitches, too. Of course it’s at a high intensity, but I felt good, and I feel pretty good today.”
Feeling fine physically was important for Harper, who had another busy day. He rode in the All-Star parade down 42nd Street in New York, flanked by his mother, Sherri, his sister, Brittany, and his girlfriend, Kayla, before handling sponsor obligations and heading to Citi Field to prepare for the game. Manager Davey Johnson and right-hander Jordan Zimmermann also rode in the parade, along with the rest of the National League and American League All-Stars.
While Harper wore blue spikes in the Home Run Derby on Monday that had an orange reflective top with the skyline of New York City etched into them, he had a similar pair — these with a red base — in his locker for Tuesday night’s game.
Harper became the youngest position player in major league history to play in two All-Star games. His 21st birthday will not come until Oct. 16.
But for those who watched him Monday night, there was little surprise to see him in the final of the home run showcase. Zimmermann just shrugged when asked about it. “Usual,” he said.
“It was pretty impressive,” said Baltimore Orioles first baseman Chris Davis, who was eliminated from the Derby in the second round with 12 total home runs. Harper sat out of the Nationals’ series against the Orioles earlier this season while dealing with bursitis in his left knee that ultimately cost him 31 games.
“I was excited to see him get to hit, and he didn’t disappoint.”
Johnson, too, seemed to see regularity in Harper’s feats, which included hitting eight home runs in each round, eventually falling to Oakland’s Yoenis Cespedes and his majestic swings.
“I watched him,” Johnson said. “Swinging like I see him swing everyday: hard.”