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Harper, Williams give thoughts on lineup

Jun 30, 2014, 5:48 PM EDT

Photo by USA Today Photo by USA Today

Finally having Bryce Harper back in the mix on Monday, Matt Williams’ lineup card looked much like it did on Opening Day, the last time he had a roster at full health to choose from.

Harper is back in left field with Ryan Zimmerman at third base, Anthony Rendon is back at second. Denard Span remains in center while Danny Espinosa takes a seat on the bench as the odd-man out.

Though fans and those who cover the team have been debating how things should sort out upon Harper’s return, Williams is consistent in his approach. He says the lineup will be day-to-day and moving forward it will depend on a variety of factors.

Williams would like to give several players days off soon, most notably Adam LaRoche, Jayson Werth and Ian Desmond. He will also look at matchups based on opposing pitchers and, as always, injuries could play a role.

Just because everyone is back right now, doesn’t mean it will be like that for the final 81 games of the regular season.

“It’s today’s lineup. It may change tomorrow, we don’t know, depending on what happens tonight. I’m going to knock on wood again and say we hope that everybody that’s back now is back for the rest of the year. But if you look at what has happened this season, we can’t count on that necessarily. That can change things,” he said.

Putting Harper in left field is something Williams will not commit to permanently. The 21-year-old played all three outfield positions during his recent minor league rehab stint and could shift around in the coming weeks. Williams mentioned center field as a possibility, a position Harper has made it known he prefers.

Harper, in fact, reiterated that point on Monday. He said he found out Williams’ lineup on Twitter and respects his skipper’s decision to put him back in left. That said, he thinks the Nats’ best lineup is a little different than the one constructed on Monday.

“I’m in the lineup, that’s all that matters. If I had the lineup it would maybe not be the same. But he’s got the lineup card, he’s got the pen and he knows what he’s doing. There’s nothing I can do about it,” he said.

Harper explained that point further.

“I think [Zimmerman] is great and he should be playing left. Rendon’s a great third baseman and he should be playing third. And we got one of the best second basemen in the league in Danny Espinosa. Of course you want the best hitting lineup in there, and I think Rendon playing third and Zim playing left is something that is good for this team and I think that should be what’s happening.”

Williams had the message relayed to him and was measured in his response.

“We’re happy to have him back,” he said. “I don’t have any comment other than that. We’re glad to have him in our lineup and hopefully I can write his name in there every single day for the rest of the year. That would be very important to our club.”

The domino effect of Harper’s preferred lineup would seem to exclude Span. Harper would be in center with Espinosa back in the lineup, and Span would sit.

Span knows he will likely get a day off here and there as Williams plays to matchups and said he is confident in his manager’s ability to handle the situation.

“He’s the manager, so he’s going to handle it the best way he can. That’s the bottom line. He’s the boss, so however he decides to handle it, knowing him and knowing that he’s an ex-player, I’m pretty sure he’s going to handle it as if he were the player. He’s not that far removed from the game, so I trust that he’s going to do what he thinks is best.”

Regardless of where he plays, Harper is happy to be back on the field after missing over two months. The two-time All-Star will wear a protective mitt over his surgically repaired left thumb when running the bases, but does not plan to alter his approach.

“I’m just going to play. If I hurt it, I hurt it. If I blow it out, I blow it out,” he said. “I’m going to slide headfirst, I’m going to slide feet first when I need to, but sliding headfirst is what I’m comfortable doing and I’m going to keep doing it.”

  1. David Proctor - Jun 30, 2014 at 5:55 PM

    The last quote is going to draw a lot of ire, but I’m fine with it. When you play tentative that is what you gets you hurt. His injury was a fluke one. No need to change how he slides.

    • coop202 - Jun 30, 2014 at 5:58 PM

      Most of these quotes will draw ire – why say anything value your preferred lineup?

  2. Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 30, 2014 at 6:09 PM

    Be aggressive but not reckless and ve aggressive in the optimum of situations. Trying to stretch a double into a triple with 2 outs is not smart unless you know you have it. Crashing into an outfield wall with a 4 run lead when no runners are on base is not the time to get aggressive.

    Harper and Span both have to pick the right times to be aggressive. They have been the ones guilty as charged with the most boneheaded plays.

  3. emdash01 - Jun 30, 2014 at 6:14 PM

    That ‘he has the pen’ comment is very similar to something Werth said about the lineup:

    “Werth said that he is open to resting when Harper returns, but after that, he expects to be in the lineup every day.

    “‘Doesn’t really matter if I am or I am not’ open to rest after that, Werth said. ‘This is a team. You can go in and politic for yourself, but at the end of the day it’s, you know, ‘He who holds the ball controls the game’ but more like ‘He who holds the pen controls the lineup.””

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 30, 2014 at 6:26 PM

      Good pickup on that. They all want to play. The trends move and I’m sure Matt will react to it. I still expect Danny to be inserted late in games so he will get reps.

      McLouth is almost above the Mendoza and needs some reps also.

      MW finally will have the options he hadn’t had really all season considering Ramos came out of Game #1. Hard to believe.

      This has to be feel like you just bought a brand new Ferrari that you will drive for the first time.

      • knoxvillenat - Jun 30, 2014 at 6:53 PM

        Let’s hope he doesn’t crash on turn 1…..2…….3……

    • Hiram Hover - Jun 30, 2014 at 7:00 PM

      Yeah, except when Harp says it, it sounds like “He has the matches and the gasoline. What can I do about it?”

  4. natsbro - Jun 30, 2014 at 7:34 PM

    FP briefly speaking about Harpers comments…I agreed with him.

  5. Sec 3 My Sofa - Jun 30, 2014 at 8:45 PM

    I must say, it SMELLS really good up here in 312

  6. Sec 3 My Sofa - Jun 30, 2014 at 8:48 PM

    I’m just saying, I like summer in DC.

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