SALISBURY, Md. - Bryce Harper's first round of batting practice before Tuesday's Strike Out Hunger South Atlantic League All-Star Game seemed a surefire indication that the promising right fielder's troublesome left thumb problem was giving him fits.
Taking BP in a group that included shortstop Manny Machado, the top Orioles prospect who plays for Single-A Delmarva, Harper made contact - just not the solid kind associated with a No. 1 overall draft choice. Hitting off Delmarva manager Ryan Minor, Harper mixed in some weak popups with line drives.
In his second and third rounds, the Hagerstown Suns slugger's power started to emerge. Harper started with some frozen ropes to the gaps and follow those with a few blasts over the outfield fence at Perdue Stadium. Then, out of nowhere, came a mammoth shot over the second set of fences - about 25 to 30 feet - that drew oohs and aahs from the crowd assembled for the Northern Division's batting session.
Harper finished up his swings, went to the dugout and got a different bat, a move that seemed to make all the difference in the world. He flashed some serious gap power in his third round, spraying hard liners to left- and right-center and then hitting one long homer over the second fence in left-center. When he was done, Harper tried to hide a satisfied smile as the crowd erupted into applause.