Recently, Harper has started to get something going in the batter’s box with three doubles in the last two games, including a pair of extra base hits in the same inning against Orioles’ lefty Zach Britton Monday night in Bowie, Md.
But he is also starting to show off his defensive capabilities as well. Playing left field for the first time on a continual basis, Harper has started to get in some pretty good throws and show off his powerful arm. In Monday’s game, Harper made a pair of very good catches in left field.
In the bottom of the seventh, the Baysox first baseman Joe Mahoney flew out to deep left field where Harper leaped against the wall and made the catch. With a man on first, Harper attempted to double up LJ Hoes at first base. The throw came screaming in from the left field warning track on one hop.
Senators manager Tony Beasley thought it was a pretty good play by Harper to try for a rare double play.
“I was shocked that he came up and threw it back to first base,” Beasley said. “At the same time, I was impressed that he could throw a ball that far. It just short hopped the first baseman. It really wasn’t a bad play on his part. You would like to have (Tyler Moore) step up and catch that ball or just block it. It was really a close play. If he catches it we may even double the guy off.”
First baseman Tyler Moore couldn’t handle the throw on one hop and Hoes went to second. Harper was charged with a throwing error.
Told of the throw Tuesday, Nationals manager Davey Johnson was not surprised, smiling, “that sounds like Bryce.”
The Senators’ were up 9-1 at that time, so it wouldn’t have affected the outcome either way, but it again shows the aggressiveness Harper loves to display, as well as a cannon of an arm. He believes he can make any play at any time.
In the eighth frame, Harper ran hard to the left field line foul territory to track down and catch a fly ball off the bat of the Baysox second baseman Greg Miclat.
He also tried to make a diving catch on another fly ball that was destined to fall untouched between himself and the centerfielder Chris Rahl.
Before the game, Harper said it is still a challenge as he works on his defense in left field.
“I am trying to work out there every day,” Harper said. “(I do) early work. I feel good out there. Sometimes I look good and sometimes I look bad. Hopefully, I look better than I did last weekend in Richmond. I am trying to play hard and try to catch some balls out there for my teammates.”
Harper had a ball go over his head on one play in Richmond, but made every play that went his way Monday against the Baysox. Beasley sees Harper making progress in each game.
“Left field is still kind of new to him,” Beasley said. “(He is getting used to) the ball off the left field bat. He has done a good job at it. Probably two weeks ago, he doesn’t catch that ball. He made a really nice play on that ball (Monday).
“I thought it was out of the ballpark when it was first hit. He caught it, gathered himself and made a strong throw. Also, the ball he caught in foul ground where he made a sliding catch was a really nice play. It is good to see him do that.”
Harper singled out former major leaguer Tony Tarasco as really helping him to learn the position in left field. His teammates have also aided in teaching him the nuances on defense and the outfield at Metro Bank Park.
“(Outfield coordinator) Tony Tarasco has helped me out more than anybody,” Harper said. “He preaches to me all the time to go after the ball, try to catch everything you can. Chris Rahl is awesome out there and Josh Johnson plays center sometimes. Having those guys around me really helps out.”
You can tell with the way Harper plays the position he wants to be a perfectionist and make every play, evidenced by his attempted dive for a ball no one was going to catch. But he doesn’t feel any pressure to make the plays to show he can be good in left.
“There is no pressure at all,” Harper said. “I just go out and play my game. A game I know how to play. We are close to Nationals Park, close to D.C., but there would be a lot more pressure if I was playing with the Nationals right now.”