Nationals manager Matt Williams was able to shed more light on what he thought Bryce Harper meant when talking about where he would like to hit in the lineup and what position he would prefer to play.
Williams said he understands if Harper would want to hit higher in the lineup than sixth.
“With regard to scrutiny regarding the lineup, that’s on me,” Williams said. “I make the lineup. And that’s all that Bryce said. He makes the lineup, I’ll play left field, or I’ll play center. I’ll play wherever he wants me to and I’ll hit wherever he wants me to.
“I think that’s the proper response. I don’t think he had anything different. I think he said, ‘If I had the pen, it may be different.’ That’s perfectly fine. It doesn’t mean that he disagrees with the way I’m doing things or has some issue with me.
“What it means is that yeah, if I was him, I’d want to hit third or fourth, too. Who wouldn’t? It’s taken as it’s taken. I’ll tell you this. It would be beneficial for everybody to see how it plays because I don’t anticipate Bryce Harper hitting sixth the rest of the year.”
Williams said Harper is hitting sixth because he just returned from a torn ligament in his thumb and they want to be careful with how he is pitched to to some degree.
“He’s just coming back from injury,” Williams said. “Does he hit two for us? Yeah. Does he hit three for us? Yeah. Does he hit four? Yeah. Maybe not today, but he will, and it will be this year. So I think there is a lot made of it and that’s OK.”
What about Harper saying that everyone around him was very good at their positions on defense without listing the center fielder Denard Span among those players?
“I would caution because that is not what he said,” Williams said. “That is not what he said. He said and I quote, ‘We have the best second baseman in the National League. (Ryan Zimmerman) Zim is playing very well in left and Anthony (Rendon) is a great third baseman.’
“He did not say, ‘I want to play center and put Denard on the bench.’ That did not come out of his mouth the other day that I know, because it wasn’t quoted in the paper, so I don’t think he said that. Now that may be the perception of what he meant, but that’s not what he said.”
One reporter brought up the recent instances when Harper has said he prefers playing center field because he gets more plays at that spot, and he actually likes that spot better because it helps him offensively.
Williams said the media might be putting the cart before the horse and jumping to a conclusion on what Harper is saying about Span.
“That’s assumption though. Again I would caution because that’s all assumption,” Williams said. “I don’t know any outfielder who wouldn’t love to play center. That’s a great place to play. That comment gets taken and then he makes a comment about the lineup and the guy’s playing so well and then that’s got to be what he means. Well, he didn’t say it. That’s where we are at right now.
“He’s good, I’m good. He wants to play. He wants to win. I want to write his name in the lineup every day. His teammates are there to support him. He’s there to support his teammates. And we’re going to move on. We need to play well. That’s as far as we are going with it.”
Williams also said the infield is healthy and it wasn’t a slight toward Danny Espinosa that he wasn’t placed in the lineup for tonight.
“Just health of other guys,” Williams said. “Last night, we had some question marks about some guys in the infield, but they feel good today. That’s the decision. It’s nothing against Danny, nothing against with regard to him in any form or fashion. It was just a question last night of whether guys would be able to post today. But everybody is good.
“It’s kind of a weird schedule. We’ll have to look at the weekend, too, and see where we can potentially give some guys some rest as well.
“It’s hard to argue with the last two days. I will get him in games and he will continue to stay sharp. Do my best to do that. I think he is a wonderful player.”
Update: The start of tonight’s game has been delayed because of approaching inclement weather. We will pass along further information when it becomes available. They have not placed the tarp on the field yet and fans are watching the Indians-Dodgers game on the jumbotron.
Update II: The game will start at approximately 6:30 p.m.