WASHINGTON (AP) - For a guy who won the NL MVP award, Bryce Harper sure is eager to move on from 2015.
Move on from the disappointment of his Washington Nationals missing the playoffs.
And move on from getting choked by teammate Jonathan Papelbon during a dugout dustup.
“Last year’s behind us. I mean, all of last year’s behind us,” Harper said Sunday at the club’s fan festival. “We were a losing team. I know we were above in the win column and loss column, but we still lost.”
A day after the Nationals were eliminated from playoff contention in September, Harper and Papelbon fought with each other during a game.
“From the day that Papelbon kind of told everybody he was out of line a little bit and stuff, I think that’s whenever it dropped (as an issue),” Nationals reserve Tyler Moore said.
“It was a very disappointing year last year and the way it kind of ended up, it just got kind of ugly,” Moore added. “We know this team and organization is built with class and has a lot more class than that - and I think we can bring it back to how it should be.”
Harper was the youngest unanimous MVP in baseball history; the right fielder turned 23 shortly after the season ended. He had a .330 batting average, .460 on-base percentage, .649 slugging percentage, 42 homers and 99 RBIs.
But Washington finished 83-79 and in second place behind the New York Mets in the NL East, nowhere near the results expected for a club with World Series aspirations.
“I’m not even worried about last year. It was a terrible year for what we were about,” Harper said. “And we need to go into this year with the right mentality. With the ‘win’ mentality of going in there with a chip on our shoulders, trying to win ballgames. And hopefully everybody counts us out, so we can prove everybody wrong.”
The team fired manager Matt Williams the day after the regular season ended, eventually replacing him with Dusty Baker.
Harper said he has been in touch with Williams, whom he credits with helping him improve as a hitter, during the offseason. He also looks forward to playing for Baker.
“Everybody I’ve talked to that’s played for him or played around him says he’s a great guy, he’s a lot of fun, laid back and a player’s manager. So very excited to play for him,” Harper said. “Very excited to learn and try to get some things from him mentally and really just try to further my game as much as I can.”
One area where Harper sees room for improvement is as a runner. He had six steals last season, only two a year earlier; his career-high total was 18 as a rookie.
Asked if he’d like to steal more, Harper replied: “I mean, if I’m allowed to.”
“I know I can score from first … but would be nice to be able to score from second or third,” he said.
NOTES: RHP Aaron Barrett blames being overworked for his elbow problems that led to Tommy John surgery, saying, “the bottom line was I was literally just throwing too much.” Barrett also revealed he had an operation to remove bone spurs and bone chips from his left ankle 10 days ago. … Moore showed up in his new No. 32 jersey; he gave up his old number, 12, to Baker. “Maybe he’ll give me some playing time in exchange for the number,” Moore joked. … New reliever Shawn Kelley was wearing No. 27, which used to belong to fan favorite Jordan Zimmermann, a starter who recently left for Detroit as a free agent. Kelley said the Nationals’ clubhouse manager picked 27 for him, knowing the pitcher wore that with a previous team. Kelly recounted their exchange: “I said, ‘Is that too soon?’ And he said, ‘Nah. It’s just a number. Nobody’ll mind.’ So I said, ‘All right. I’ll take it.’”
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