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Harper soaks in All-Star experience

Jul 11, 2011, 2:32 AM EDT

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Bryce Harper reacts after striking out in his first at-bat of the Futures Game.

PHOENIX — Bryce Harper has been “playing up” against older, more experienced competition since … well, pretty much since the day he first picked up a baseball bat and homered off his father.

Sunday evening, though, brought a whole new challenge for the Nationals’ uber-prospect: Four at-bats against four different flamethrowers from four different farm systems in the All-Star Futures Game, all of them shown on national television.

The end result was perhaps predictable: Harper went 0-for-4, striking out twice and grounding out twice. The happy-go-lucky 18-year-old’s reaction, too, was perhaps predictable.

“I don’t even care what I did today, actually. I really don’t,” he said. “I could’ve went 4-for-4 and: Hallelujah. 0-for-4? Hallelujah, too. I’m just happy to be here, to be around the guys I am.”

Harper’s teammate at Class AA Harrisburg, Brad Peacock, acquitted himself very well: The right-hander tossed a 1-2-3 inning of relief on nine pitches, joining 10 other hurlers that led a team of top American
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  1. Joe Seamhead - Jul 11, 2011 at 3:04 AM

    Super well written piece,Mark!

  2. sjm308 - Jul 11, 2011 at 3:12 AM

    Great article Mark!We pretty well know what they have planned for Harper but what about Peacock?

  3. Drew8 - Jul 11, 2011 at 3:29 AM

    Mark: Thanks for the details and the insights on Harper in the tall grass. The throw that bypassed the cutoff man was a good reminder that even great talents need some seasoning.There were a couple of interesting tidbits from the minors tonight.At Syracuse, it's no surprise that Lombardozzi's average has "settled" back at .348. (All Nats should be so fortunate.) The shocker is that because he has just one walk, Lombo had a higher on base percentage with Harrisburg (.366) than he does with Syracuse (.362.)At Potomac, Sammy Solis threw 7 scoreless innings to improve to 2-0 and drop his ERA to 2.08.After a slow start at Hagerstown, Big OF Kevin Keyes is red hot. He knocked in five runs tonight and now has 33 RBIs in 38 games.

  4. Anonymous - Jul 11, 2011 at 4:31 AM

    Nice story, Mark! What's with you and Barry Svrluga not knowing how to spell the word: "whoa"? :) He always, always made the same spelling mistake.

  5. Drew8 - Jul 11, 2011 at 5:10 AM

    It's time for "It Could Be Worse!" with your host, Wink Martindale.Let's check in on the big free agents at the break.Werth: .217, 10 homers, 31 RBIs, .322 OBPCrawford .243, 6 homers, 31 RBIs, .275 OBPUggla .185, 15 homers, 34 RBIs, .257 OBPDunn .160, 9 homers, 34 RBIs, .292 OBPNow wrap your heads around this: Jayson Werth has 11 stolen bases — three MORE than Carl Crawford.

  6. Gonat - Jul 11, 2011 at 11:12 AM

    Brad Peacock said, "Randy Tomlin talked to me a lot and we did a lot of work on hiding the ball better. I did a couple different things but I found success with it in Harrisburg and I'm really happy with it."It is the changes made in the lower Minors that can make a good pitcher a MLB quality pitcher. I wish the Nats did this with more of their young pitchers adding more deception, changing arm angles and adding another quality pitch.I like where Rizzo is drafting young arms that have raw talent and arm strength which is a start.

  7. A DC Wonk - Jul 11, 2011 at 12:42 PM

    Gonat said… Brad Peacock said, "Randy Tomlin talked to me a lot and we did a lot of work on hiding the ball better. I did a couple different things but I found success with it in Harrisburg and I'm really happy with it."If I'm remembering the right story, I think Peacock also said that the staff suggested he throw from a more over the top position, and that that had added a lot of movement to his pitches.I wish the Nats did this with more of their young pitchers adding more deception, changing arm angles and adding another quality pitch.Maybe they are! But perhaps only a few can execute it well.Another thought:sjm308 said… We pretty well know what they have planned for Harper but what about Peacock?Ditto on that question! We shouldn't rush him, but it'd sure be nice to know if he might be a suitable stopgap replacement for JZimm when JZimm gets shut down.Or, at least: when might Peacock get a chance to show his stuff in AAA?

  8. Big Cat - Jul 11, 2011 at 12:47 PM

    DrewAJ Cole looks to be settling down at Hagerstown after a rough start. His era is down in the 2's now. Robbie Ray, another high draft pick, has an era in the 1.00's. Rizzo does a much better job drafting than Bowden ever did

  9. Big Cat - Jul 11, 2011 at 12:51 PM

    Werth has 10 hr's and 31 rbi's? Wow….thats a quiet 10

  10. sjm308 - Jul 11, 2011 at 1:02 PM

    GoNat: you make a good point and I am not at any minor league games or camps but I have to think that the difference between Peacock and maybe someone like Maya, is that he IS coachable, and can adapt and make changes. Do you honestly think they just let those young bucks rear back and throw without comment? Of course they are coaching, these guys are valuable commodities and this is what a coaching staff does, they coach. The more I hear Harper, the more I feel we are going to enjoy his time with us. He has no fear of speaking his mind and its refreshing. I also like that he can talk about his mistakes and still stay positive. I realize he is a baby but I have to think his personality will shine as he continues to move up. The fact that he already does realize he needs to hit the cut-off man means he has been coached up as well. Remember, this kid played just one position – Catcher – until this season. This is a huge move for him and like most everything else that has been thrown at him, he has succeeded. I can only hope Rendon makes the same jumps as he trys a new position as well.Go Nats!

  11. Gonat - Jul 11, 2011 at 1:04 PM

    Gonat said…I wish the Nats did this with more of their young pitchers adding more deception, changing arm angles and adding another quality pitch.DC Wonk said… Maybe they are! But perhaps only a few can execute it well.__________________________DCWonk, very fair point. I am thinking Shairon Martis has some upside as he was a mess in mechanics and needed to stay low in the zone to stay competitive and hoping Randy Tomlin is behind the improved results I see in the boxscores.I watched Peacock's inning of work in the Futures game and he showed a little bit of Clip with a high heater that got a check swing strikeout.

  12. Unkyd - Jul 11, 2011 at 1:06 PM

    Big Cat: Robbie Ray is a 12th rounder… NOT being snarky, here… Is that considered a high pick?

  13. HHover - Jul 11, 2011 at 1:08 PM

    Big CatNot so much quiet as a distant memory – his last HR was on June 16.sjm308I have to confess the more I hear, the less impressed I am–for example, the "yeah, I know I'm supposed to hit the cutoff man, but I didn't because I wanted to make the highlight reel" line. I'll tolerate the "personality" if it comes with all-star caliber play, but I can't say I look forward to it.

  14. Joe Seamhead - Jul 11, 2011 at 1:24 PM

    Come on, folks! Before the game the announcers said repeatedly that the coaches on both teams told the players to pull out all the stops, swing for the fences, there were no stop signs, etc. etc. Bryce, [in what his 6th game playing LF], tried for a highlight clip in an exhibition game. It was an ill-conceived, off the mark, but very powerful display of his arm strength. Give him a break.

  15. Gonat - Jul 11, 2011 at 1:28 PM

    SJM, Maya is the classic example of what you see in Detwiler. Decent through the order the 1st time. Still wondering if their issues are arm stamina, or pitch predictibility where the next time through the lineup the other team has them figured out. I think it is a combination of both.Doesn't that define a reliever? Keith Law on the ESPN telecast of the Futures Game said he thought Peacock would be a reliever. Certainly haven't seen him enough to make any impression either way.

  16. A DC Wonk - Jul 11, 2011 at 1:41 PM

    HHover said: I have to confess the more I hear, the less impressed I am–for example…Joe Seamhead said: Come on, folks! … the coaches on both teams told the players to pull out all the stops, swing for the fences, there were no stop signs, etc. etc…. Give him a break. Thanks, Joe, for that background.FWIW, I have a son who is about six months younger than Bryce. When I see what Bryce must be going through, and I look at my son — I'm pretty impressed with Bryce. Eighteen year olds are still kids — and they are far, far, far from being wise in years, no matter how impressive they may seem on the baseball field. (There's a reason why alcohol is prohibited to those under 21, ya' know!)

  17. skidge - Jul 11, 2011 at 1:51 PM

    Word, DC Wonk. (My son is almost exactly Bryce's age…)

  18. JD - Jul 11, 2011 at 2:24 PM

    A few points: 1) Cole and Ray are very young and in low A. The jury is still out as to if/when they will make to the show and at what level they will pitch. 2) Solis is doing OK but being a college grad he is in a level which is too low for him. Fringe prospect. 3) You can't always (almost never actually) put everything on the coaches. Maya et.al have limited abilities. 4) Milone and Peacock are probably the next 2 pitchers to get a look/see in the majors. They may work out or they may be more like Stammen and Martin; they are not sure things. 5) Trying to figure out where Rendon will play or even if he will play for us is premature; this depends on many things. Mostly it depends if Zimmerman signs with us long term.

  19. HHover - Jul 11, 2011 at 2:26 PM

    Joe – Thanks–I appreciate the context for this episode.DCWonk – Agreed–the person he is now isn't necessarily the person he's going to be in 2 or 3 or 5 years. I hope and think he'll mature, and I know the Nats have people around him committed to helping him with that. There seem to be some commenters, tho, who think his "personality" is great just the way it is. Ultimately, I guess that's a matter of taste, but it's not where my tastes lie.

  20. JD - Jul 11, 2011 at 2:28 PM

    SteveM. has been pushing for Detwiler to move to the bullpen and he may be right. The team resisted this move because you want to maximize the opportunity for high draft choices and moving from the rotation to the bullpen is certainly a downgrade. Having said that it is very possible that Detwiler lacks a variety of quality pitches to be a succsesful starter but may have enough stuff to survive as a strong reliever.

  21. NG - Jul 11, 2011 at 2:31 PM

    Keith Law is a joke. He freely admitted is his last chat that he hasn't actually seen Brad Peacock pitch this year, when he's finally turned the corner and found success. He's at best reporting hearsay from some unnamed scout, who also may or may not have seen him pitch this year (I think anyone who describes him as a one-pitch pitcher is likely workng off old impressions), and may or may not have some hidden agenda. He would be so much better if he would just admit he doesn't know something rather than trying to be a know-it-all blowhard. "I saw him in AFL and saw a one-pitch guy with iffy command. But because he started so well this year I asked around substantially … and got back a pretty similar answer. One source said 5th starter; the others said reliever. No one said he has an above-average second pitch. I haven't seen him this year, but with no one telling me he's a 2/3 starter, I can't come to you with that opinion."Source: http://espn.go.com/sportsnation/chat/_/id/38680/mlb-insider-keith-law

  22. sjm308 - Jul 11, 2011 at 3:25 PM

    GoNat – good point on Maya and if we can turn him into a decent reliever then at least we would get something back on our investment.I love that it looks like they will keep Detwiler up at the major league level. There is something about being jerked back and forth that has to mess with your psyche as well as the physical part. Look how the Rays kept David Price in the bullpen for his first two years and he is now a dominant starter. Agreed that Ross has difficulties the 2nd and 3rd time through the order but that can change. If it doesn't, he still have value out of the pen. Its a win/win in my eyes.As for Keith Law, what a joke, has never seen him pitch in person and has already put a label on him. How do the espn guys get to keep their jobs?Hoover – I didn't say Harper was great just the way he is, I said I enjoyed his honesty and youth and to accomplish all this at 18 is amazing. Everything I have read say his parents are still involved and look where he was going after the Futures game "back to my own bed and some home cooking". I think being brash can rub some people the wrong way but it also separates the great from the good. Don't tell me that most of the great hitters were not cocky. Can't wait to see him evolve and sometimes when I watch him swing its hard to remember he is just 18.Go Nats

  23. Steve M. - Jul 11, 2011 at 3:30 PM

    JD said… SteveM. has been pushing for Detwiler to move to the bullpen and he may be right. The team resisted this move because you want to maximize the opportunity for high draft choices and moving from the rotation to the bullpen is certainly a downgrade.Having said that it is very possible that Detwiler lacks a variety of quality pitches to be a succsesful starter but may have enough stuff to survive as a strong reliever. July 11, 2011 10:28 AM JD, very kind of you and I have had a lucky year with some of my predictions so far and hopes it continues. Right or wrong, I base most of my observations on stats and what I see.On Jordan Zimmermann, his comeback last year and especially his start against Florida last year in Jordan's 2nd start back in 6 innings of shutout 1 hit ball with 9 strikeouts told me this guy was going to be the star I saw in 2009. With Tommy John guys, you take the good with the bad. It was distressing during April of this season that he was called a "prospect" and people weren't patient. Jordan in the cooler weather was like a guy going into a battle with 2 bullets. Now you see a star out there. All pitches working.On Detwiler, he was great in the bullpen last year and dominating against Minor Leaguers in his late inning outings in Spring Training but those were 3 inning appearances and I knew Ross had his issues in longer outings. Here's what I think, Ross does have stamina issues and as he gets further in the game his pitches flatten out as he tries to keep up the velocity. I still think he could be a #5 in a rotation but why not let him excel at what he may do well at and be a star in the bullpen. Aaron Crow and Kimbrel are both examples of rookie stars in the 'pen. I think Davey saw what I saw and funny how 2 days earlier he called Detwiler his long man in the pen and then puts him out there for 2 innings of setup relief. Where he goes after the All Star break is still a mystery. What isn't a mystery is if you keep pushing Clippard he will eventually break down which is another reason you need Detwiler.On Chien-Ming Wang, he may make it and could be the best stop-gap to take innings for Jordan Zimmermann and have Strasburg take innings from some of the others.I will try to write up my Werth thoughts for the 2nd half later on.

  24. sjm308 - Jul 11, 2011 at 3:34 PM

    Great Posts today guys.My son asked me what the biggest move the Nationals should make and without blinking an eye I replied signing Zimmerman to a long term contract. Do you guys agree? With that done, we can then figure out what to do with Rendon, Desmond, Lombardozi etc. It gives us even more stability in that both Werth and Ryan will have little to worry about as far as the future and gives us two solid pieces. I realize that everyone will jump on how poor Werth is performing and how overpaid he is but he should revert back to the solid player we purchased and with the young talent we have, make us a contender for years to come.I guess the other moves that could be crucial would be another good starting pitcher. We went after Lee, Grienke, Garza etc last year. I am guessing we will do the same. And while I like Bernadina, if there is a great leadoff/CF available I think we should look at that as well.Looking forward to this groups analysis.Go Nats!

  25. SCNatsFan - Jul 11, 2011 at 3:48 PM

    I don't know how you can't agree that signing Zimm long term is the best possible message the franchise could send to its fan base right now. Heck if he signed for 7 years he might even smile. Although that clearly isn't working for Werth's smile…

  26. JD - Jul 11, 2011 at 4:00 PM

    sjm, Even if Werth turns it around there is no reason that to think that he won't start regressing naturally given his age. This was an awful signing any way you slice it. Agree about Zim. One way or another I just don't see where Rendon fits other than at 3rd base. If Zim signs I think Rendon still plays 3rd base and gets traded likely for pitching. If Zim chooses to test free agency we will need to trade him and slot Rendon into 3rd base.

  27. JD - Jul 11, 2011 at 4:06 PM

    SteveM. The main difference between a starter and a reliever is not just stamina but also the quality of the secondary pitches. As a reliever all you need is 2 decent pitches; a starter needs more of a repertoire. Do we know for sure that Detwiler has more than 2 strong pitches? BTW; if you watched carefully yesterday you saw that Clippard was missing his spots by a lot so even though the results were OK there was lots of luck involved. They really need to use him less frequently going forward.

  28. The Great Unwashed - Jul 11, 2011 at 4:20 PM

    My father-in-law is a Yankees fan (other than that, he's a good guy) and to get under my skin, he likes to say that it's only a matter of time before Zimmerman is wearing pinstripes. Part of me believes that's a distinct possibility. So yeah, sjm308, I think locking up Zimmerman long term is priority number one.We've had a chance to see him play since September of 2005 and he's the real deal, both offensively and defensively, so the front office is going to have to pay. It's just a matter of whether he wants to test the free agent market or is willing to do what Troy Tulowitzki did and take a hometown discount deal that gives him long term security.Priority number two is a leadoff hitter. It would be nice if he played CF too, but I'll take him at any position at this point.If Desmond doesn't pick it up with the bat, I'd say priority number three is to find a new SS or 2B, depending on what they decide to do with Espinosa next year and boyond.I think the Nats farm system has good pitching coming up through the pipeline so I'm going to gamble and say that's not a top priority unless Strasburg suffers a setback.Sorry everyone, we're stuck with Werth for the foreseeable future.

  29. JD - Jul 11, 2011 at 4:45 PM

    Great unwashed, The Yankees have 5 more years left on the ARod contract. I'm more concerned about the Red Sox. But yes; I think 7 more years for $150 mil might do it. Would have been nice if we didn't waste $127 mil on JWerth.

  30. Sec 3, My Sofa - Jul 11, 2011 at 6:13 PM

    I don't think Zimm is signing anything until he sees where this team is going. He will make a ton of money, regardless, so that's not the issue. He wants to win. If he thinks that will happen here, fine, but if they don't convince him, I think he'll bolt. And I wouldn't blame him.

  31. JaneB - Jul 11, 2011 at 8:17 PM

    sjm, I agree. SIgning Zimm is the move. And I agree with Mr. Sofa that he won't sign until he sees we really are as good as we all hope we are going to get.RYFNR!And PS — the capcha today — I swear to goodness — "harper" Cool, huh?

  32. Waddu eye no - Jul 11, 2011 at 9:12 PM

    Is peacocks coach the same guy they sent Lannan down to work with last year?

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NL EAST STANDINGS

W L GB
x-WASHINGTON 92 64 --
ATLANTA 76 81 16.5
NEW YORK 76 81 16.5
MIAMI 75 81 17.0
PHILADELPHIA 71 86 21.5
x-Clinched NL East title
Through Tuesday's games

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W L GB WCGB
x-WASHINGTON (2) 92 64 --
y-LOS ANGELES 89 68 3.5
y-ST. LOUIS 88 70 5.0
-------------------------
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SAN FRANCISCO 85 71 0.5
MILWAUKEE 80 77 6.0
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