Bryce Harper, the Nationals’ heralded right field prospect, had perhaps his best game of the spring Saturday in the Nationals’ 10-8 win over the New York Yankees at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa.
Harper went 1 for 2 at the plate and collected his first RBI of the spring -- stroking a hard single to right off Yankees right-hander Daniel Turpen, then aggressively taking second base when the ball was bobbled in the outfield. He also started a perfectly executed 9-6-5 relay to nail Austin Romine at third base trying to stretch a double into a triple.
“It takes awhile,” Harper said of his growing comfort at the plate. “They say it takes 30 or 40 at-bats to get ready. If can get 30 at bats [this spring], I’d be great. I feel really good up there right now.”
Perhaps just as impressively, Harper held his own against a small contingent of New York media members -- including Keith Olbermann -- who visited his locker after the game to see whether Harper’s childhood love of the Yankees translated into some star-struck moments in his first game against them. But Harper shot that notion down quickly, saying he was all business and had no interest in meeting anyone in the pinstripes.
“I never say hi to anybody [on the other team]. I just stay over here,” Harper said. “... I’m trying to beat them. That’s what I am. If we’re off the field, I’ll go over and say hello. You can be my best friend, and I’ll hate you on the baseball field. That’s how I am. If you’re my best friend, playing shortstop, I’ll still take you out. That’s how I am.”
Though Manager Jim Riggleman praised Harper’s awareness of the strike zone, Harper politely disagreed, saying, “I think my strike zone is pretty bad right now, actually.... I feel like I need to learn the major league strike zone a little better than I do right now.”