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Monitoring Harper’s defense

Mar 5, 2012, 3:11 PM EDT

Associated Press photo
Bryce Harper tries to snag Brian Bixler's line drive during yesterday's game.

VIERA, Fla. — As much attention as we all give to Bryce Harper's offensive exploits this spring — hey, did we mention he went 1-for-2 yesterday and is now hitting .400 (2-for-5) in the Grapefruit League? — just as crucial to the 19-year-old's chances of making the Nationals' roster is his defensive progress.

Harper has now appeared in right field three straight days (against Georgetown, twice against the Astros) and he's scheduled to be back out there tonight when the Nationals travel to Port St. Lucie to face the Mets.

So far, he hasn't had very many opportunities to make plays in the field. Nor has he had the opportunity to show off his arm (or, in other cases, show that he knows when it's appropriate not to show off his arm).

Harper's most notable chance to date came late during yesterday's game, when Houston utilityman Brian Bixler (remember him?) struck a ball down the right-field line in the top of the eighth, with the AstrosRead more ยป

  1. Anonymous - Mar 5, 2012 at 3:17 PM

    i like it. one more experience to build on. whether he caught it or not he's gonna get the feel for it the more he does it. not much to learn from laying back.

  2. jeeves - Mar 5, 2012 at 3:23 PM

    I genuinely believe Harper will be a gold glover some day. The question is when. How quickly will he adapt? I think he's a fast study, so hopefully his rise to defensive asset instead of liability will be much sooner than later.

  3. whatsanattau - Mar 5, 2012 at 3:43 PM

    The real test will come when he has an opportunity to not go for it. When he needs to play it safe will he? Until then, benefit of the doubt. (Good Luck, John Lannan, force your way into the rotation)

  4. Anonymous - Mar 5, 2012 at 3:59 PM

    He had a realistic chance. The ball hit his glove for goodness sake. He made the right play no doubt. And as FP said on the tube he fired a laser into second base on that play.

  5. Doc - Mar 5, 2012 at 4:06 PM

    Darn tootin' the Oppo Boppo guy is a fast study, Jeeves. A catcher up until a year ago, now he's tracking down fly balls like a trooper.Considering that the Shark still hasn't figured out how to go back on a ball in CF, Harper is a real-time whiz kid!!!!

  6. Section 222 - Mar 5, 2012 at 4:24 PM

    I liked the hustle, and since he got his glove on it, it's pretty hard to say the dive was ill-advised. At least he didn't do a Werth-like slide.

  7. Anonymous - Mar 5, 2012 at 4:34 PM

    (Good Luck, John Lannan, force your way into the rotation)That's your guy Mark and HE IS THE one on thin ice. I expect we'll see him in Syracuse making 5 million. Can't see them getting much for him in trade and they need veteran depth in AAA.

  8. Anonymous - Mar 5, 2012 at 4:49 PM

    How he should play this ball is a situational decision. If the ball was hit to right-center you make the attempt because you have CF backing you up. If it is 2 outs runner on 2nd or 3rd you make the attempt. If it is 1 out nobody on you keep the ball in front of you and catch it on the hop. Or if it is ST, when the games don't count and you are trying to make the team you go with your instincts and learn from the experience.

  9. natsfan1a - Mar 5, 2012 at 5:01 PM

    I'm kinda with Davey on this one, although I wouldn't particularly want one of our guys to get hurt by doing a face plant or running into a wall during an exhibition game. (Well, I wouldn't want them to get hurt any time, but you probably get my drift.)

  10. Sec 3, My Sofa - Mar 5, 2012 at 5:04 PM

    Nobody wants to see him get hurt, but nobody pays to see him play scared, or lazy, either. So there's that.It was out of my reach! What do you want me to do, DIVE for it??

  11. natsfan1a - Mar 5, 2012 at 5:08 PM

    One of my fave lines. :-)

  12. HHover - Mar 5, 2012 at 5:21 PM

    Anon @ 12:34You know, a Lannan-bashing comment from you without his pRAA #s is like a box of Cracker Jacks with no surprise inside.

  13. Anonymous - Mar 5, 2012 at 5:21 PM

    His D is simply not as crucial as his O. He needs to not be terrible in RF, which is easy enough to do for a kid with his size and speed.Now, if only Zuckerman would monitor Desmond's defense . . .

  14. Anonymous - Mar 5, 2012 at 5:29 PM

    Anon @ 12:34You know, a Lannan-bashing comment from you without his pRAA #s is like a box of Cracker Jacks with no surprise inside.pRAA? Does that stand for periculum's Really An Asshat, perhaps?

  15. Kirbs - Mar 5, 2012 at 5:29 PM

    When you don't play 100% you get hurt. Plus he is still making that switch from catching. In time he will learn when the ball must be caught and risk it getting to the wall or get it on the hop.

  16. SayNoToClint - Mar 5, 2012 at 5:33 PM

    At least he didn't do any of that "ole b*llsh*t."Sec 3, My Sofa said… It was out of my reach! What do you want me to do, DIVE for it??

  17. SonnyG10 - Mar 5, 2012 at 5:54 PM

    Unless I'm remembering wrong, the ball was hit way to his left side (towards the line). There was no chance to catch it on the hop. If he doesn't dive the ball is by him anyway.

  18. N. Cognito - Mar 5, 2012 at 5:59 PM

    Does anyone here know why Mark hates all the players he refused to mention in this thread?

  19. natsfan1a - Mar 5, 2012 at 6:03 PM

    I'm not sure, N. Cog, but clearly Bixler *is* Mark's guy because he went out of his way to mention him. ;-)

  20. natsfan1a - Mar 5, 2012 at 6:06 PM

    Oh, come on – cut the rah rah [stuff], SayNo. ;-)SayNoToClint said… At least he didn't do any of that "ole b*llsh*t."

  21. Anonymous - Mar 5, 2012 at 6:28 PM

    Season tickets scheduled to begin shipping Friday via UPS.

  22. baseballswami - Mar 5, 2012 at 6:31 PM

    When is Jordan pitching?

  23. DaveB - Mar 5, 2012 at 6:32 PM

    The picture accompanying the story completely contradicts the line in the article saying he had no realistic chance to catch it. He got his glove on it! Anytime you get a glove on it you have a realistic chance to catch it. The dive was a bit awkward, a more flat-out dive (like a more experienced outfielder might make) would have been enough to catch it. I didn't have a problem with the attempt, he's learning.

  24. Anonymous - Mar 5, 2012 at 6:33 PM

    baseballswami said…When is Jordan pitching?You're the swami… shouldn't you know?

  25. Anonymous - Mar 5, 2012 at 6:35 PM

    to SonnyG10-if he takes a different line on it he can make the catch off the hop. With the line he took his only options were to dive, or keep on his feet and chase it, but that still would have held Bixler to a double.

  26. Anonymous - Mar 5, 2012 at 6:48 PM

    pRAA? Does that stand for periculum's Really An Asshat, perhaps?I should make a new stat called pONIAH's. People on Nats Insider Are Hypocrites. A bunch of whiners and moaners who moan about anonymous posters saying this or that and then look what they do? Shows some real maturity and the sad thing is this is probably someone who is as old as dirt. ~smiles~ And you wonder why I love to "flame on" as Johnny Storm would say. Too may here definitely deserve it … ~laughing~

  27. Bozo - Mar 5, 2012 at 6:48 PM

    How did we let that Bixler get by us?

  28. Anonymous - Mar 5, 2012 at 6:52 PM

    How did we let that Bixler get by us?The Nats horn of plenty is a cornucopia of MI at this point. Starts with Espinosa and Desmond, leads off into Lombardozzi, Rendon, Kobernus, and Hague. Lots and lots of MI who need to be evaluated to see if they can produce on offense while fielding their position.

  29. baseballswami - Mar 5, 2012 at 6:56 PM

    Kind of hoping that both Livo and Bixler catch on in Houston. Both are good guys. Anon 1:33 — I wish I could see all and know all.

  30. Cease the Opportunity - Mar 5, 2012 at 7:00 PM

    I don't know what to believe. I heard FP say over the week-end that pitchers are way ahead of hitters at this point. I can't argue with him since he's been a ML player. But, oh yeah, you know a but was coming, it seems like every team in the ML has scored a bunch of runs in the first two preseason games except one team. Not saying it means anything. Never paid much attention to preseason games in any sport. But, why does it seem as though every team appears able to score a bunch of runs in the first two games except one? Is this one team special? What am I missing? Somebody please fill me in…

  31. Anonymous - Mar 5, 2012 at 7:05 PM

    during the season he'll play it safer,right now its spring training and he's just trying to show hustle and great ability to davey,rizzo,the lerners and his future teamates.im just glad he didnt come up injured.on a side note his swing looks a lot different than it did in his younger days.i prefer his old swing,it had more lift,and better use of his legs.

  32. Oldguy - Mar 5, 2012 at 7:07 PM

    In case anyone might be interested…Baseball Prospectus Book NewsBP2012 Tour Starts This WeekDate: Wednesday, March 7, 2012Time: 7:00 PMPolitics & Prose Bookstore5015 Connecticut Avenue NWWashington, DC 20008

  33. Anonymous - Mar 5, 2012 at 7:18 PM

    Somebody please fill me in…Its spring. Its still too early. The Nats have determined 90% of their starting lineup for up to the next 6 years. Its young and will take time to develop. The evaluation / possibility for changes will proceed through April. And at the end of April most believe Bryce Harper will be inserted into the starting lineup most games. He too will be developing before your eyes.

  34. Oldguy - Mar 5, 2012 at 7:22 PM

    Five if last years's playoff clubs scored 3 runs or less yesterday. Rangers, D'backs and Brewers scored 1. And the Tigers hit 8 home runs–the wind?

  35. Feel Wood - Mar 5, 2012 at 7:23 PM

    But, why does it seem as though every team appears able to score a bunch of runs in the first two games except one? Is this one team special? What am I missing? Somebody please fill me in…Gorzelanny is not allowed to pitch against his own team.

  36. Gonat - Mar 5, 2012 at 8:36 PM

    In the Houston game on Saturday I think it was Altuve who smoked a ball into RF and Harper got to it quickly and Espinosa got out there for the cut-off and threw a strike to Espinosa's chest instead of air-mailing it to Desmond. I was impressed by that play which showed he is maturing. In Hagerstown he would have thrown it over his cut-off man.

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