Bryce Harper made the All-Star team last year as a reserve. This year, he goes in as a starter.
Harper was one of the top three vote-getters among National League outfielders in the All-Star fan voting, meaning he’ll start the Midsummer Classic, making him the youngest NL player to ever start the game.
“I’m very blessed to be part of that,” Harper said. “I’m just very excited. I got to thank the fans of D.C. and Las Vegas and everywhere else that voted for me. I’m very excited to do this.”
Harper got off to a red-hot start to this season, but left knee bursitis slowed him down and caused his numbers to drop. He missed 31 games while on the DL and finishes today hitting .263 with 13 home runs and 28 RBIs.
“Bryce, if he doesn’t get hurt, he’s setting records right now,” Ian Desmond said.
Harper will be joined in the All-Star Game by Jordan Zimmermann, who will make the Midsummer Classic for the first time. Zimmermann leads the National League with 12 wins, and while he got a no-decision today and saw his ERA move up slightly to 2.57, he’s had a tremendous first half.
“It’s awesome. It’s a huge honor to be representing the Nationals,” Zimmerman said. “I feel like Stras (Stephen Strasburg) had a great first half, and he could also be there. But like I said, I throw the ball, these guys score the runs for me and play the defense. I’m happy to be out there and pitching for them.”
Last year, Harper had Strasburg and the talkative Gio Gonzalez with him in Kansas City for the All-Star Game. This year, he has a different, less-chatty starter joining him.
“Jordan doesn’t talk much,” Harper said with a smile. “I think it’ll be exciting. He deserves it, definitely. Having him there to represent our staff, the guys that we’ve got on our pitching staff, he’s going to do a great job.”
We know Zimmermann will be on the National League roster. We don’t know whether he’ll be chosen as the starting pitcher for the NL team. The chances might not be great with Mets righty Matt Harvey making the team and the All-Star Game being in his home park, but Zimmermann certainly has a shot at getting the start.
“We’ll see what happens and see what they say,” Zimmermann said.
Davey Johnson was happy to see two of his top guys get selected, and pointed out that Zimmermann’s throwing schedule could make him an attractive choice to start the All-Star Game. The Nats’ righty would be on normal rest on Tuesday, the day of the game.
“It was great,” Johnson said of having Harper and Zimmermann selected. “That’s the second time for Bryce. Zim certainly deserves it and he’s probably got a good chance to start that game too because he’s going to have like three days off before the break.”
The Nationals could still have a third player end up in the All-Star Game. Desmond was named one of five candidates for the National League Final Vote, in which fans will vote to select the last player to make the NL roster. Desmond will go up against the Braves’ Freddie Freeman, the Dodgers’ Adrian Gonzalez, the Giants’ Hunter Pence and the Dodgers’ Yasiel Puig.
“It’s great. It’s an honor to be mentioned,” Desmond said. “Obviously not in, but to be in that group, to be, I guess, thought of, is good. I’ve came a long way since I came into the big leagues.
“I’ve said it before: My number one priority is playing for the Washington Nationals and trying to get to the World Series. Going to the All-Star Game is obviously a tremendous honor, but playing for the Washington Nationals and wearing a ‘W’ on my chest means a lot more to me.”
Puig has been in the majors only a little over a month, but he figures to get a lot of votes pouring in from the West Coast after his dominant start to his big league career. He also has everyone back in his native Cuba who will likely be sprinting to computers to put in votes for the young outfielder.
Asked how he feels about his chances going up against Puig, Desmond smiled.
“It’s not looking too good,” he said. “How many people are on that island?”
One thing is clear, though: Desmond’s teammates feel he deserves to head to New York two weeks from now. Among all major league shortstops, Desmond ranks first in extra-base hits, tied for first in homers, and second in OPS.
“There’s not too many guys better at the position than he is right now,” Ryan Zimmerman said.
Johnson and Nationals head trainer Lee Kuntz will also be heading to New York; the two will serve on the National League staff.