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Williams: Harper making progress

Jul 8, 2014, 5:40 PM EDT

Photo by USA Today Photo by USA Today

Since returning from a nine-week absence in late June, Bryce Harper has yet to find his form on offense. It’s only been seven games, but the guy who hit three home runs in his final rehab outing has yet to show up.

After going 0-for-3 with two walks in the Nats’ loss to the Orioles on Monday night, Harper is now 4-for-24 with 10 strikeouts since coming back. While he waits for his swing to click, manager Matt Williams insists he is seeing measured signs of progress in the young star.

“He looks better, his timing is a little better. It’s a process, man,” Williams said. “You take that much time off, it’s difficult to maintain timing. I think he’s starting to see it a little bit better, he’s a little calmer at the plate. The results weren’t there, but standing in the dugout watching, he just looks calmer. He looks like he’s seeing the ball a little bit better.”

Harper played in five total minor league games before rejoining the Nationals on June 30. With seven MLB games under his belt, he’s 12 games into his return from surgery to repair the UCL in his left thumb.

Williams described the process of getting your timing back as a hitter:

“There’s nothing that simulates game speed, that’s why we have six weeks of spring training. You have to have that to get ready because there’s really no other way to do it. You can get in the cage with a [pitching machine] and throw the ball at 100 miles per hour, but it’s not the same as a pitcher out there having the ability to throw a curveball at any time. It’s not easy. It’s about a fifth of a second to react and decide what you’re going to do.”

Harper is now hitting .262 on the season through 29 games and has one home run. Time on the DL or not, his numbers are not what has come to be expected of the two-time All-Star.

Williams believes the hype that surrounds Harper as a young face of baseball has an effect.

“I think expectation has a lot to do with it. I think we’re all human and regardless of the job we do or who we are in relation to Bryce, we all expect greatness. And so when it’s not, there’s a bigger emphasis.

“Everybody goes through slumps, everybody has injuries, everybody who comes back from a long layoff has timing issues and needs to get back into the flow of the game. But I think with Bryce especially, that spotlight shines a little bit brighter than most folks. There is a bigger emphasis.”

Williams followed that up with a reassurance that Harper is close to breaking through.

“I’ll tell you this, though, I think he’s going to be just fine. It will be good and he will be good. It may take some time and that’s the case for everybody. But I think he will be just fine.”

  1. Sec 3 My Sofa - Jul 8, 2014 at 5:45 PM

    OT, but I’m seeing a link to a story on “Ten Athletes Who Died Before Their Careers Were Over.”

    I don’t want to jump to conclusions, but I’m pretty sure none of their careers continued after they died.

    • Steady Eddie - Jul 8, 2014 at 6:13 PM

      It’s true to its source.

      You will never like “you may like”. Especially as you will already have seen all the NI clickbait, so there’s nothing contingent about that either way.

  2. Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 8, 2014 at 6:16 PM

    As I wrote this morning they taped a customized pad yesterday onto Bryce’s bat for his thumb.

  3. nats1924 - Jul 8, 2014 at 7:32 PM

    good read bout Desi’s future — Rosenthal/Foxsports. apparently nats are looking for a young SS?

    Prediction: We trade Desi (and possibly JZ) and start Espi at SS in 2015.

    …I like both JZ and Desi — But I am ok with this. Big contracts is what kills MLB teams.

    • nats1924 - Jul 8, 2014 at 7:32 PM

      these trades happen in the offseas btw.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 8, 2014 at 8:16 PM

        I don’t buy it as they think it will happen. I think the team is trying to think long-term and get a SS who can backup Desi and the 2nd base position and possibly start next year when RZim moves to 1st and Rendon moves to 3rd. If they do that, Espi goes back to AAA or included as a piece in the trade.

      • rayvil01 - Jul 8, 2014 at 8:33 PM

        I remember in2012 Desmond was out. Espi played. SS Nd Lombo played Second. It was a good infield. Espi plays a good SS. Just needs to learn to be a contact hitter. I have doubts he is coach – able. Ghost you are probably on point.

      • therealjohnc - Jul 8, 2014 at 10:40 PM

        I think Theo Epstein is floating the rumor to create a rift between the Nationals so he can use one of his extra shortstops to try to pry Giolito and a couple minor pieces away from the Nats.

  4. ArVAFan - Jul 8, 2014 at 8:31 PM

    Red tape. Washington DC. I’m assuming no one is surprised.

  5. Rick - Jul 8, 2014 at 9:44 PM

    Puig, Machado and Trout have all left Harper in the dust performance wise. Time for Bryce to shut his pie hole and finally live up to the hype. Especially his own hype. He acts like it was a given that he’d be great.

    • zmunchkin - Jul 9, 2014 at 8:05 AM

      You might want to take advantage of this thing called the web/internet to do a little research before you make such claims. I know a lot of folks in this area want to believe that Machado is the better player. And maybe eventually he will be. And I agree that Bryce has not yet lived up to the expectations. But Machado leaving Bryce in the dust? NONSENSE. Here are Machado’s and Harper;s slash lines for 2014:

      Machado – .261 .308 .404 .712
      Harper – .262 .336 .374 .710

      Pretty similar.

      And here are their career slash lines:

      Machado – .275 .309 .428 .737
      Harper – .271 .351 .470 .821

      Not exactly a leaving in the dust difference.

      • evilrendon - Jul 9, 2014 at 10:25 AM

        Notice how he left out Puig’s and Trout’s numbers. Because they are indeed leaving him in the dust.

      • scmargenau - Jul 9, 2014 at 10:31 AM

        Most of Harper is year one…when he was unknown to pitchers. I bet the total at bats are not even close. The stats do seem close, but as the total at bats add up over a larger sample u will see a big difference.

      • zmunchkin - Jul 9, 2014 at 11:14 AM

        Nope. Perhaps you should have looked for yourself. But then again, if you had, you would have seen that it is nonsense to say the Machado is better is any sense of the word.

        Take a look at Baseball-Reference for Machado vs. Harper.

      • zmunchkin - Jul 9, 2014 at 11:33 AM

        I left out those numbers because my issue is the absurdity of the reference to Machado. WRT Trout, no debate that he is clearly a better player now, and perhaps for the rest of his career. WRT Puig, it is debateable.

        The fact that I left out Trout and Puig in a reply that focused on the comparison of the two local players (Harper vs. Machado) is because I was commenting on the absurdity of the claim about Machado vs. Harper. And I made that clear in my comments.

  6. sjm308 - Jul 8, 2014 at 10:38 PM

    Harper misspoke on his first day back. Since then he has been quiet. Pretty sure players and management let him know he was out of line. He has said nothing since and yet people here and elsewhere won’t let it go. Most are going to hate no matter what he does but I am tired of everyone jumping on a 21 year old kid who basically answered a question (answered it poorly but he didn’t bring it up). If you support the Nationals, how can you not support one of OUR players who has the most upside of anyone in the dugout? Just wondering.

    Go nats!!

    • zmunchkin - Jul 9, 2014 at 8:06 AM

      +1

    • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jul 9, 2014 at 8:55 AM

      +2

    • scmargenau - Jul 9, 2014 at 10:27 AM

      Not everyone subscribes to his upside. Rendon has more upside. Heck he’s there. Being a fan we can choose who we like and dislike…u don’t have to automatically like a player because he’s a Nat, that’s absurd. Bryce’s attitude, his mouth and demeanor, plus lack of performance are why I don’t like him. There wouldn’t be so many articles, haters, comments if there wasn’t something there.

      • zmunchkin - Jul 9, 2014 at 11:25 AM

        Are you really that naïve to believe that the press does not blow things out of proportion.

        Just one example: the blown kiss. Never happened. He did pucker – but that is different (and I agree he should not have done it). But did the press talk about the following:

        – the other team’s pitcher had thrown at his head
        – the other team’s pitcher puckered at him first (I think after striking him our in a previous at bat)
        – the other team’s pitcher was mouthing off to him as he rounded the bases.

        So, yea, Bryce reacted. And he shouldn’t have. But once you have the full story perhaps you understand it a bit better.

        And WRT his demeanor, ask the Dad of the kid who died of brain cancer what he thinks of Bryce after Bryce spent over an hour talking to the kid before a game instead of the 5 minutes that was planned/expected.

  7. ehay2k - Jul 9, 2014 at 5:43 PM

    At the first (and only ) game in the O’s series at Nats Park, the guy sitting next to me was sizing up various players’ swings. When Harper came up, he said Bryce was really throwing his right shoulder open. When I looked a the next few swings, he appeared to be right. Anyone else see the same? Just wondering if the mechanics aren’t all there, as much as MW was talking about timing.

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