Harper’s suspension reduced to three games, starts tonight

SAN FRANCISCO - Major League Baseball has reduced Bryce Harper’s suspension to three games after hearing his appeal, and the Nationals slugger will begin serving his time tonight, according to a source familiar with the decision.

Harper, who originally was suspended four games for charging the mound Monday after getting intentionally hit in the right hip by a 98 mph fastball from reliever Hunter Strickland, will sit out tonight’s series finale against the Giants and the first two games of the Nationals’ weekend series in Oakland. He’ll be eligible to return Sunday afternoon against the Athletics.

A ruling on Strickland’s appeal of his six-game suspension has not yet been made.

harper-in-dugout-hoodie-sidebar.pngHarper argued that his punishment was excessive when considering the fact he had no reason to expect Strickland’s intentional plunking. He was merely reacting in the heat of the moment.

“I wasn’t going up there thinking about it,” Harper said after Monday’s game. “But after he did it, I was like, OK, that was intentional. I did what I had to do, I guess.”

Joe Torre, MLB’s chief baseball officer, has typically suspended batters four or five games for charging the mound. In the end, Harper gets off with a slightly reduced sentence.

Torre’s initial ruling came Tuesday afternoon, and with both players immediately appealing the decision they were allowed to be in uniform and play in the evening’s game. Strickland did not pitch in the Nationals’ 6-3 victory, but Harper started in his customary position in right field and batted third. He went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts, booed vociferously by the crowd at AT&T Park every time he stepped to the plate.

Harper has been slumping over the last two weeks. He’s hitting .133 (6-for-45) with a .493 OPS in his last 12 games, a streak that has seen his batting average plummet from .388 to .322 and his OPS from 1.271 to 1.076.

The Nationals are not allowed to replace Harper on their roster during the suspension, so they’ll have only 24 active players for the next three games. They’ll have only three true outfielders on the roster (Jayson Werth, Michael A. Taylor and Brian Goodwin) but Adam Lind and Wilmer Difo could play the outfield if necessary.

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