A lot has been made of rookie center fielder Bryce Harper’s offense since the All-Star break, and how he had been struggling with off-speed pitches down in the zone.
But recently, Harper has had four consecutive multi-hit games. In his last five games, he has nine hits, three homers and eight RBIs. His average has been raised to .256, after hitting .222 in July and .243 in August.
And what about his defense in the outfield? He has made strides on defense with every chance and learned from some miscues.
He has stepped forward a few times and then had to go back. And he has learned to throw to the cutoff man to not allow runners to move up, instead of always trying to throw it home from deep center field.
Harper said playing alongside right fielder Jayson Werth has helped him learn the position and the game at a faster pace.
“Having Werth out there, he has been around the game for a long, long time,” Harper said. “He has been in the minors and came up to the big leagues. If you are going to learn, learn from a guy like that. It has been a fun ride.”
You can see them chatting in the dugout or Werth letting Harper catch a ball that is close to both of them. They laugh afterward and you can see the chemistry building.
“He is an incredible outfielder,” Harper said. “He knows pitchers really well, he knows other teams. Anything I can get from him every day is a plus.”
Harper said that communication between the outfielders and his direction to Morse and Werth at the point of center field is critical to their coordination on defense. Harper said he relies on Werth’s experience against each batter and each team to help him in that defensive alignment pre-pitch.
“Being center fielder, you got to move your defense,” Harper said. “I look to him sometimes when I don’t know the guy, especially when we faced the Cardinals that first day, I hadn’t seen them yet. I try to look at him and see what he thinks and where to match up and line up on guys.”
It certainly has not been easy for Harper, who played catcher for most of his amateur career, and had only a few months of outfield experience in the minors. But in those first few days of learning the position, he realized what he needed to do to have a chance at every fly ball.
“The first time getting to instructs and working with (outfield coordinator) Tony Tarasco, I was like a baby giraffe and trying to get my legs underneath me,” Harper recalled. “I was so go-go-go, instead of smooth and go. Now I am trying to get a little better at that.
“My throws can still be a lot better. There are a lot of things I can get batter at every single day. I am still young and still learning and trying to learn every single day.”
And with his recent hot streak at the plate again, Harper said he feels he is becoming more patient and more calm when he steps in.
“A little bit,” Harper said. “You just can’t take this game for granted. You can’t go out there and not try. I am going to go 110 percent every day, no matter if I am 0-for-4 or 4-for-4, or if we are winning or losing. I am still going to give you 110 percent, as long as we get that ‘W’ by the end of the day. That is the biggest thing on my mind.”