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Williams: “I’ve got Bryce’s back, in every way”

Jul 1, 2014, 6:07 PM EDT

AP AP

Matt Williams met with Bryce Harper today and then made a concerted effort to diffuse any notion of perceived animosity between the Nationals manager and his 21-year-old star.

“I’ve got to let you guys know something: I’ve got Bryce’s back, in every way,” Williams said prior to the Nationals’ game against the Rockies. “And that will not change.”

The relationship between Harper and Williams was called into question after the outfielder openly questioned Monday night’s lineup, which had Harper (just activated off the DL) batting sixth and in left field, with Ryan Zimmerman moving back to his old position at third base.

Harper said he believed Zimmerman should remain in left field, with Anthony Rendon at third base and Danny Espinosa at second base. Without expressing it explicitly, Harper suggested he would rather play center field, with Denard Span the odd man out in the Nationals’ suddenly overcrowded outfield.

Williams talked to Harper afterward and made it clear he’s simply trying to put the young slugger in the best position to succeed and help his team win.

“I want him to play every day, and I want him to play the way Bryce knows how to play,” Williams said. “He’s going to hit in different spots in the lineup, and he’s OK with that. And he’s going to play in different spots in the lineup, and he’s OK with that, too.

“I know there’s a lot made of it, and I know there’s a lot of discussion about it. But he and I are good. There’s no rift. We have a conversation every day. I’ve got his back, and I support him all the way. I’m happy to write his name in the lineup every day. Who wouldn’t be?”

Harper didn’t make himself available during pregame media availability in the Nationals’ clubhouse.

Teammates seem less concerned with what Harper says and more concerned with making sure he stays healthy and productive, as he was during Monday night’s win, in which he reached base twice, drove in a run and made two impressive throws from left field.

“He brings a lot of energy to our team when he plays this way,” shortstop Ian Desmond said after Monday’s game. “The way he went about his business today, putting pressure on the defense, made a good throw back to first base there … that’s the kind of stuff that he does. When he plays, he impacts the game. But we need him out there every day.”

Williams echoed those sentiments today, saying he’s not concerned with how other players might have perceived Harper’s comments.

“No, I let him know that I support you, that part of my job is to do that and that I admire his talents and the way he plays the game and how happy we are to have him on our team,” Williams said. “That’s the extent of it. That will not change, and there’s no problem between he and I, certainly. There never has been. I respect him, he respects me. Like I said, I’m really happy to put Harper in that lineup every day. Because it gives us a very good chance to go out there and win a ballgame.”

  1. Sonny G 10 - Jul 1, 2014 at 6:35 PM

    Let’s move on folks. Nothing to see here.

  2. unkyd59 - Jul 1, 2014 at 6:36 PM

    I’m thinking there’s enough veteran ball players, whom the Kid really respects, to offer him any “advice” he may need, and without sitting on his head, to do it. I am unconcerned about any clubhouse drama getting out of hand with this crew.

    • letswin3 - Jul 1, 2014 at 6:55 PM

      Advice …. you betcha. I’m guessing that Harper shows up tonight with a band aid on his left cheek, and Werth will be looking like an older uncle with a bad attitude … I think they call it a Werthitude. Okay, I’m finished with all this, unless Harper adds insult to injury. Then, all bets will be off.

  3. Sec 3 My Sofa - Jul 1, 2014 at 7:12 PM

    Matt Williams met with Bryce Harper today and then made a concerted effort to diffuse any notion of perceived animosity between the Nationals manager and his 21-year-old star.

    I’m pretty sure you meant “defuse,” as in “reduce the perceived threat,” there, Mark, vs. “diffuse,” i.e., “to spread around, to scatter.”

    • Faraz Shaikh - Jul 1, 2014 at 7:48 PM

      “He’s going to hit in different spots in the lineup, and he’s OK with that. And he’s going to play in different spots in the lineup, and he’s OK with that, too.” This also seems incorrect, no?

  4. natszee - Jul 1, 2014 at 7:13 PM

    Read the comments Desi made over this …. He is truly the Captain of this team. I admire his leadership.

  5. karlkolchak - Jul 1, 2014 at 9:18 PM

    Gee, I sure am glad Williams’ “has the back” of his best offensive player and “wants him to play everyday.” How gracious of him after he threw Bryce under the bus earlier this year–oh, and his team of creaky old veterans who “play the game the right way” can’t score any runs on a consistent basis without Harper in the lineup.

    Now if Mr. Old School Manager would stop being a meathead and bat Harper higher than 6th in the order like he ought to be we’d really be getting somewhere.

    • scmargenau - Jul 1, 2014 at 11:58 PM

      Why in the world do u think Bryce is our best offensive player?

  6. fatuus - Jul 1, 2014 at 10:01 PM

    What does Harper have against Span?

    • Doc - Jul 1, 2014 at 10:24 PM

      From past comments over the last 2 seasons, I always thought that he respected Span’s ability to play CF.

      Better for him not to have said anything. We’ll probably never know what was on his mind ,

  7. philipd763 - Jul 2, 2014 at 9:37 AM

    Very ballsy for a career .273 hitter who has spent half his career on the DL. He couldn’t carry Mike Trout’s jock strap!

  8. JamesFan - Jul 2, 2014 at 10:04 AM

    Everyone is trying to paper over Harper’s latest public mistake and that is a good thing. He needs to play baseball and talk according to his production and experience. Many more of these without production on the field and his reputation as a over-hyped prima donna will become permanent.

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