JUPITER, Fla. - The Cardinals beat the Nationals 3-2 this afternoon at Roger Dean Stadium, but if you turn on MLB Network or SportsCenter tonight, you probably won’t see much of Gio Gonzalez’s five innings of work or Danny Espinosa’s impressive sliding defensive play to the right of the second base bag.
You’ll probably see Bryce Harper getting thrown out of the game in the fourth inning for arguing a call at first base with umpire Jeff Gosney.
Harper sprinted down the line to try and beat out a slow roller, but was called out by Gosney on a bang-bang play. Harper then turned to go back to the Nats’ dugout, and when he walked by Gosney, he said something that apparently didn’t sit well with the umpire. Gosney immediately ejected Harper, who then turned back around and started yelling at the ump.
“He said the magic word,” manager Matt Williams said afterwards. “I don’t know what he said, but the umpire told me he said something to him. The question I had with it was, did he say something? I didn’t see him make a gesture toward him or anything. But he said the magic word. So I had to go out there and have a discussion about it.”
It’s certainly possible that Harper was just expressing frustration with himself for grounding out in what has been a tough spring for him statistically. (Not that spring stats matter. We’ve been over this.)
The Nats didn’t make Harper available to the media after the game, and Williams wasn’t sure whether Harper was upset with himself or the umpire in that situation.
“Evidently the umpire thought he was addressing it to him, so that’s why he took the action he did,” Williams said. “I think everybody’s a little chippy at this point. Everybody’s ready to go. And Bryce is fiery. If he said something he shouldn’t have said, the umpire felt it was appropriate to do that.”
Williams then got into a heated discussion of his own with an umpire, when he and third base umpire CB Bucknor started yelling back and forth as Harper was waiting to collect his things and head to the Nats’ clubhouse, down the left field line.
“Usually if you get thrown out of a game, you go right down the tunnel to the clubhouse,” Williams said. “But here, most spring training places you don’t go from the dugout to the clubhouse. You have to walk down the line. I just didn’t want him to be embarrassed about it, that’s all. I asked (Bucknor) to get the game going, and (Harper) would go between innings.
“I was asking CB to wait. They were kind of waiting around for him to leave the dugout. I understand that. But I just didn’t want him to be embarrassed and have to walk in front of everybody down the line. That’s all.”
Williams knows that Harper plays the game with intensity, and as a former All-Star player who was pretty intense on the field himself, he understands where Harper is coming from. In fact, Williams was once ejected from a Single-A rehab game, when he played for the Diamondbacks’ Lancaster affiliate.
“I’m playing third base,” Williams recalled. “I’ve got four at-bats that day, and it’s kind of my last few days to get back to playing in the big leagues. A play at third, I tagged him, I thought he was out. Umpire said safe. I said, ‘No, he’s out.’ We went back and forth and he tossed me. And I went, ‘Wait a minute, I’ve got three more at-bats!’ It was too late at that point. No do-overs.”
There will be no do-overs for Harper, either, which is why even though Williams understands Harper’s intense mentality, he wants him to channel it a little better.
“It’s important for him to stay in games for us,” Williams said. “Especially that early. As it turned out, he would have gotten a couple more at-bats and it could’ve made the difference. ... I just think there’s a way to do it. You can express displeasure with a call and not push it over that edge. But again, we love the way he plays the game, because he’s all-out. He desperately wants to win, so we love that about him. But in a situation like that, he just has to not take it too far. That’s all. It happens.”
In other topics, Gonzalez got in his final spring outing, allowing three runs (one earned) over five innings. He finishes spring with a 2.91 ERA in 18 1/3 innings.
“I think that the 2014 spring training this year finished on a strong note,” Gonzalez said. “I felt like I executed pitches that I wanted to execute. I think that pitches Jose (Lobaton) was asking for was being thrown. I was hitting the target. I’m not disappointed at all with the pitches I made and the hits they had. There were just some great pitches I kept inside, down-and-away, and that’s a good hitting team. Tip your cap.
“I thought the spring training, if you want to scale it, I feel like I’m 100 percent ready. I feel like I’m 100 percent ready to go. My arm feels great. Other than that, I feel like I’m ready to get the 2014 regular season on with it.
Gonzalez was hit in the left biceps by an Adam Wainwright curveball today, but he says he’s fine and was joking with reporters about it after his outing.
“It makes it look like I’m a little stronger,” Gonzalez said. “I can wear tighter shirts now.”
Ross Detwiler delivered a clean sixth inning of work today, his second straight scoreless frame coming on in relief.
“Today he was a little, because of the inning, he got a little longer to warm up,” Williams said. “So that’s part of his process now, to make sure if it’s a quick warm-up that he can feel comfortable doing that. But today it was a little longer. That was good. He felt a little more comfortable going out there, and you saw it in the results.”