- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 5, 2015

Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper was voted a starting outfielder in the upcoming All-Star Game on Sunday, receiving the honor for the second time in his four-year major-league career.

The 22-year-old led all National League outfielders with more than 13.9 million fan votes, the most ever by an NL player. He is also the first three-time all-star in Nationals history.

“Definitely excited,” Harper said after Washington’s 3-1 win over the San Francisco Giants on Sunday night. “Being able to play alongside some of the best in baseball at the All-Star Game, being able to hang out and just have a good time with everybody, it’s definitely going to be exciting. I’m very blessed to be a part of it, and I thank all of our fans, and all the fans across the country, that voted for me. Definitely thank you so much for all the support.”

SEE ALSO: The Rundown: Nationals sweep the Giants with 3-1 win

Harper has also been invited to participate in the home run derby for the second time, but he is unsure whether he will accept that invitation. He has not taken batting practice on the field this season, and his father, Ron, would not be able to pitch to him as he did during the 2013 derby. Ron Harper reportedly tore his rotator cuff in a snowboarding accident and is still recovering.

Harper said he will make his decision Monday.

“I’ll see how I feel and what I want to do,” Harper said. “I haven’t hit on the field for four months, except for one time this year in Chicago because they don’t have a cage. That’s the only time I’ve hit on the field all year. So we’ll see how I feel tomorrow.”

SEE ALSO: Stephen Strasburg returns to disabled list with left oblique strain

Harper went 2 for 3 with a double and a walk Sunday, boosting his batting average to .347 this season.  He has already recorded 25 home runs and 60 RBI, surpassing his single-season career highs in home runs and RBI in just 76 games this season.

Harper was selected as an all-star in 2012, when he became the youngest position player ever to make the roster, and in 2013. After an injury-riddled 2014, he’s in the midst of his best season to date.

“For me, the differences I see this year as opposed to last year are he’s patient, he’s calm,” manager Matt Williams said. “The numbers are really good, of course. We’ve all seen that. But he’s taken the steps that he wants to take to become the player that he wants to be, eventually. So, I think he’s taken big steps. We saw it last year in the postseason. He’s continued that through the first half of this year, and we’re proud of him.”

Harper won back-to-back NL Player of the Week awards in May and was named the NL Player of the Month in the same month. With 25 home runs, Harper is just the seventh player in Major League history to hit 25 or more home runs in the first 81 games of the season at age 22 or younger, joining the likes of Harmon Killebrew, Mel Ott, and Joe DiMaggio.

When asked about his individual performance thus far, Harper downplayed his achievements and praised his teammates.

“I’ve got a great group of guys around me,” Harper said. “Credit to Skipper in there. He’s there for me every single day, if I need something on a pitcher or I’m not feeling right, just trying to keep my calm. And a lot of credit to Ian Desmond. He’s one of the guys that keeps me even-keel every single day and really just helps me on a daily basis.”

Harper received four million more votes than any other NL player. Giancarlo Stanton of the Miami Marlins and Matt Holliday of the St. Louis Cardinals were voted as the other starting outfielders.

The full All-Star Game rosters, including pitchers, will be announced on Monday. Nationals right-hander Max Scherzer is expected to make the team and is a candidate to start for the NL. Williams has also stumped for closer Drew Storen and third baseman Yunel Escobar to make the team.

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