VIERA, Fla. - Back at NatsFest in late January, Bryce Harper expressed some doubt that he'd be at full strength when spring training begins, this after he underwent surgery in October to debride and repair the bursa sac in his left knee.
"Trying to get back to full strength and we'll see where I can get by spring training," Harper said at the time. "See if I can go through spring training and get to 100 percent by the time the season starts. See where I'm at."
Today, Nationals manager Matt Williams said that he expects Harper to be ready to go when position players report to camp Feb. 18, although he noted that the Nats will keep very close tabs on Harper throughout the early stages of spring.
"As far as I know, he is full-go for spring training," Williams said. "We're going to monitor him, though. We're going to see how his knee reacts. There's no way, even in a rehab situation, there's no way to really simulate a game or the stuff that we do on the field until you do it. That's why guys go out on rehab and play games, because you just can't do it.
"So we'll monitor him every day. If we see anything that's bothering him, we'll modify his program first. And if we've got to hold him out a day, we'll hold him out a day to make sure he's ready to go. As of right now, he's full-go."
Livan Hernandez has been at Nats camp the last couple of days, but he hasn't really known what to tell reporters when asked how he'll be assisting the team during the spring. This afternoon, Williams cleared things up a bit on Hernandez's role, saying that the former Nats starter will be instructing current members of the pitching staff in a number of different areas.
"Livo's doing a lot of things," Williams said. "He certainly was in the bullpen today. He'll work with the pitching staff and the pitchers on fielding; he was a phenomenal fielder. He'll work with them on holding runners. He did that really well as well. I look at Livo as a shortstop in a pitcher's body. He could hit. If you put him out at shortstop, he could play it, so I want him to bring that expertise. Beyond that, he's a great ambassador for this organization, and so he'll do a little bit of that, too, but right now from a practical standpoint he'll do all of those roles within our camp."
On another note, what's the thought process behind the daily quote that Williams is putting atop the workout schedule every morning?
"I want them to talk about it," Williams said. "As an example, today's quote is, 'He who holds the ball controls the game.' I want them to have a conversation about that, and talk amongst themselves. This is pitcher-catcher camp, it starts with the guy who holds the ball, so we can control tempo, we can control the game if we do things properly on the mound. I want them to start that conversation. So that and I want them to be reminded that that's the way we think as a staff. We think that everything starts and stops with our pitching staff, and if we do things properly, we've got a chance every night. Pretty simple stuff, but it's just a reminder to get them talking."
Williams has stockpiled 41 different quotes, one for each day. Some are his own creation, some are borrowed (putting it nicely) from other people around baseball.
"Most of them are not that great," Williams joked. "But most of them pertain to kind of our team and what we want them to accomplish and how we want them to go about it, so it's kind of for us."