Johnson on hitting Harper third: “Why not?”

Davey Johnson was asked why he decided to write Bryce Harper’s name into the third spot in tonight’s lineup.

His response was a simple one.

“Why not?” Johnson said.

The strange thing is that even though this is just Harper’s fifth major league game, given the way the 19-year-old has hit lately and the way the bulk of the Nats’ lineup has struggled around him, Johnson’s response makes perfect sense. There’s no reason for him not to move Harper up to a spot where he’ll have a greater chance to drive in runs and get an extra at-bat later in the game.

“I mean, he’s swinging the bat good,” Johnson said. “He’s had quality at-bats. It’s what you do. I don’t care if his name’s Harper or whatever. Or how old he is. If you’re swinging the bat good, we’re trying to put in guys who are swinging the bat best or do the most damage.

“He looks like a pretty good choice to me.”

Harper wasn’t actually aware he was hitting third when reporters approached him in the Nationals clubhouse. He flashed a brief smile when informed he had gotten moved up in the order, but not surprisingly, he quickly brushed it off.

“Oh, great, cool,” Harper said. “I have no words for that. Just hopefully I can make something happen and get us going.”

Harper did joke that he kind of liked hitting in the seven-hole, considering he’d gone 5-for-13 with three doubles there to start his big league career. He clearly won’t mind the three spot, however.

Johnson actually made out today’s lineup after last night’s game and hid it on his desk overnight. He gave it a peek again when he got in today, and still liked the look of things with Harper in the three-hole.

“He’s got the pop,” Johnson said. “He’s got a good eye. He uses the whole field. I mean, I don’t think he’s going to try any harder.”

Harper said he hasn’t hit third since he was with low Single-A Hagerstown, but he obviously hit in the middle of the order throughout high school and his one year of college ball, so he doesn’t think it will be much of an adjustment.

He also doesn’t think his approach will change at all, regardless of where he hits.

“I don’t think so,” he said. “I think the only thing that changes is I don’t get to watch the pitcher longer than two ABs. Just trying to go up there and get something I can handle and drive.”

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