In his third at-bat Sunday afternoon, Bryce Harper tucked his batting gloves in his back pocket and gripped the bat with his bare hands. He eschewed batting gloves in high school and college, but in the majors he had always worn them, even in his first two at-bats Sunday.
“I don’t know,” Harper said. “I’m trying to feel the bat a little bit more, I guess. Just something different.”
As he stepped out to rub dirt on his hands between pitches, Harper still struck out against Brewers starter Mark Rogers, his second whiff of the day. Harper returned to his batting gloves for the remainder of the game. He finished the Nationals’ 11-10 victory 0 for 4 with two walks and the game-winning run in his return from a stomach virus, which on Saturday caused him to miss his first game since he arrived in the big leagues.
“I feel okay,” Harper said. “At the beginning I felt all right. In the middle of the game, I felt pretty bad. But I’m good now, I guess.”
Aside from the flu bug he has battled, Harper has had a difficult start to the second half. He is 12 for 66 (.182) with three extra-base hits, eight walks and 16 strikeouts. For the season, his slash line has dropped to .261/.338/.430.
That, of course, is still a solid season for any rookie and a remarkable year for a 19-year-old. Harper has also managed to make his impact felt. He lined the game-winning hit in the first game of the Nationals’ road trip in New York. Today, he sparked the 11th-inning rally with a walk.
But he has also reached the point at which he’s willing to try something different, including exchanging batting gloves for good old dirt.