- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 9, 2015

Early Wednesday afternoon, three men in Washington Nationals gear walked out to shallow right field.

The first was outfielder Jayson Werth, who knows that right-field corner as well as anyone after spending most of the past four seasons there. The second was first base coach and outfield coordinator Tony Tarasco. And the third was Bryce Harper.

Harper has played all over the outfield in his budding major-league career, but he will play only right field this season. The position switch will allow him to show off his arm, yet also require a level of adjustment.

So before Wednesday’s 2-1 win over the New York Mets, Harper spent time gathering advice from Werth, who will play left field this season when he returns from the disabled list. Though all three outfield positions are fundamentally the same, each spot has nuances. Harper is learning them.

“You’ve got that corner down in right,” the 22-year-old said. “The ball can jump off there a little bit more than it does in left. So you’ve got to get out there early and see how the ball’s going to jump off there. Get my reads as best I can and see where I’m at.”

Harper’s switch to right field was announced at NatsFest in early December, and two games into the regular season, it is already paying dividends.

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In the sixth inning Wednesday night, Mets first baseman Lucas Duda hit a line drive off the right-field wall, which is usually a double. But Harper collected it off the bounce and fired a throw to second, holding Duda to first. A similar play followed in the eighth, when David Wright hit what appeared to be a double off the bat before slowing down because of Harper’s arm.

Neither play will show up in any type of box score, but both made a significant impact on the game.

“As a baserunner, you have to make smart decisions,” Ryan Zimmerman explained. “If the ball bounces back to him, or he gets it obviously before you think you have a chance, then it’s not very smart to keep going. He’s obviously got a great arm, but he’s accurate as well. That’s a huge part of our team is the defense. Having guys like him in the outfield is going to help us a lot.”

Harper also went 2 for 3 with a walk at the plate Wednesday night. In the first two games of the season, he is hitting 4 for 7 with a home run.

Though his performance at the plate often attracts most of the attention, his arm might begin drawing that spotlight sooner rather than later.

“I feel very comfortable out there,” Harper said. “Just trying to get my reads in every single day during BP, trying to learn stuff from J-Dub of course and see how he feels out there in right. Just trying to learn some stuff every single day and see where I’m at.”



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