NEW YORK - Davey Martinez said Friday night he’d speak to Bryce Harper today about the manner in which he ran out (or didn’t run out) a double-play grounder during the Nationals’ 4-2 loss to the Mets, and the rookie manager indeed met with his star outfielder this morning.
The message that was delivered?
“I’ve spoken to Bryce,” Martinez said, “and that’s a conversation that will stay between Bryce and I.”
Martinez did acknowledge after Friday’s game, though, that he would have preferred Harper handle the situation in a different manner. With two on and one out in the top of the fifth and the Nationals trailing 4-1, Harper smoked a hard grounder to short that became an easy 6-4-3 double play for the Mets. Harper’s less-than-full-speed run down the first base line, though, caught the attention of many and was pointed out on the Mets’ television broadcast.
“That’s a conversation Bryce and I will have tomorrow,” Martinez told reporters after the game. “He didn’t run that ball out the way I want him to, so we’ll talk about that tomorrow.”
It’s not the first time Harper has come under criticism for not running out groundballs and popups, but his fourth manager in seven big league seasons (like those who managed before) made a point today to praise the 25-year-old star for the effort he does bring to the ballpark on a daily basis.
Asked if it’s tough to put an incident like Friday night’s behind him, Martinez insisted “I’ve forgotten about it.”
“We’re trying to go win a ballgame today, and he’s a big part of that,” the manager continued. “Here’s a kid, like I’ve said before, he’s all about winning. He wants to win, and that’s all he cares about. He goes out there and regardless of his average, he’s got 23 home runs and 53 RBIs. I believe that he’s going to hit 40 and drive in 100. He plays hard. He really does.
“One little thing happens, and it gets blown out of proportion. But like I said, I’m a big fan of Bryce. I love the kid because of what he brings every day. I never have to ask him, he always wants to play. I try to give him days off. He comes in and says: ‘I’m playing. I want to help us win.’ He’s a good kid. That’s all I can say: He’s a good kid.”
Meanwhile, Stephen Strasburg was back at Citi Field this morning to work out with his teammates but will head home this evening and make a rehab start Sunday for Single-A Potomac. It’s Strasburg’s second rehab start since going on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation on June 10, and it’s likely to be his final start before rejoining the big league rotation.
Strasburg, who threw 57 pitches in 3 1/3 innings of one-run ball for Potomac on Tuesday, is slated to ramp up to 80-85 pitches for this start, according to Martinez. If all goes well, he could start the Nationals’ second-half opener against the Braves on Friday.
With the Nats down to their final two games before the All-Star break, Martinez has a few options at his disposal he might not normally have during other portions of the season. For example, with Gio Gonzalez having already made his final first-half start Wednesday in Pittsburgh, Martinez may ask the left-hander to pitch out of the bullpen at some point this weekend if starters Austin Voth or Jeremy Hellickson get knocked out early.
“All hands on deck these last two days,” Martinez said. “But hopefully we get some length out of our two starters.”