Looking to suppress some of the controversy surrounding his star player, Washington Nationals manager Matt Williams defended outfielder Bryce Harper to reporters on Wednesday. As Mark Zuckerman of CSN Washington passes along, Williams says there’s no hard feelings between him and the 21-year-old slugger:
“I’ve got to let you guys know something: I’ve got Bryce’s back, in every way,” Williams said prior to the Nationals’ game against the Rockies. “And that will not change.”
Harper has come under fire the past couple days after openly questioning the team’s lineup on Monday, when he batted sixth and played left field. In that game, longtime National Ryan Zimmerman played third base with Denard Span in center field, and it appears that’s where Harper’s disagreement came from.
Harper said he believed Zimmerman should remain in left field, with Anthony Rendon at third base and Danny Espinosa at second base. Without expressing it explicitly, Harper suggested he would rather play center field, with Denard Span the odd man out in the Nationals’ suddenly overcrowded outfield.
Due to injuries, Harper has only played 24 games this season — 21 in left field and three in center. One of the most talented players in baseball, he’s also consistently butted heads with folks around the game as a young, outspoken kid growing up in the limelight.
Williams just wants to see Harper reach his potential, and part of that is filling the role asked of you.
“I want him to play every day, and I want him to play the way Bryce knows how to play,” Williams said. “He’s going to hit in different spots in the lineup, and he’s OK with that. And he’s going to play in different spots in the lineup, and he’s OK with that, too.”
In 100 plate appearances this season, Harper has batted .286/.350/.407 with four doubles and one home run.