Harper mashes, Young’s schedule is set

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - Every time the Nationals make the trip here to face the Braves, I look forward to watching Bryce Harper take batting practice, assuming he’s on the trip.

About 20-40 feet beyond the right field fence here, there’s a castle-like tan wall that stands maybe 20 feet tall. I’m not really sure what purpose it serves, but it’s out there, and it serves as another target for the heavy-hitting Harper.

Champion-Stadium.jpgHarper has no problem clearing the Champion Stadium right field fence during BP. It’s 335 feet down the line here and 385 feet to right-center, which is about average for most parks, but most parks can’t contain Harper. The castle wall, however, is tougher to reach.

Anyway, I’m rambling. I look forward to seeing if Harper can clear the castle wall at all during batting practice. He didn’t today, but he did very nearly clear the batter’s eye to straightaway center, which is probably a more impressive feat.

It’s 400 feet from home plate to dead center here, and the batter’s eye is maybe 40 feet tall. Harper came about 5-10 feet from taking a ball over top of the black barrier, which is one hell of a shot.

Upon seeing where the ball came down, batting practice pitcher Ali Modami, who threw the ball which was rudely crushed out to center, started laughing, and a couple of Harper’s teammates behind the cage shook their heads in amazement.

The kid’s got a little pop in his bat.

Meanwhile, pitching coach Steve McCatty said today that Chris Young will pitch in a minor league game Monday, setting him up to take over Ross Detwiler’s spot in the Nationals’ spring rotation March 9, once Detwiler leaves to join Team USA in the World Baseball Classic.

Young had originally been scheduled to pitch in relief of Detwiler on Sunday, giving him a couple Grapefruit League innings before his first start. But the Nationals pushed Young back, and he’ll instead throw on the team’s off-day on Monday and then be on normal rest to start next Saturday when the Marlins come to Space Coast Stadium.

Detwiler will start against the Cardinals on Sunday and then will head to Arizona to meet up with Team USA. He’s scheduled to start for Team USA against Italy on March 9.

Young threw a live batting practice session Wednesday, and said he was pleased with the results although he was clearly not throwing at full force.

Signed to a minor league deal earlier in camp, the veteran right-hander has an opt-out in his contract that would allow him to become a free agent March 24.

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