Bryce Harper sat out for the second consecutive game this afternoon as Class A Hagerstown finished the first half of its season, but not for any problematic cause, Nationals director of player development Doug Harris said.
Hagerstown has been mathematically eliminated from winning the South Atlantic League first-half championship for several days, and the Nationals wanted to let Harper rest because he will not get a break while playing in the SAL All-Star Game.
So, Harper finishes the first half with a .330/.429/.586 slash line, 14 homers, 45 RBI and 13 stolen bases in 227 at-bats. The question now is, what next for the second half of the season? The Nationals aren’t sharing their plan for Harper.
“At this point, he’s going to be in Hagersotwn,” Harris said. “That’s where he is right now.”
Said General Manager Mike Rizzo: “Right now, he’s part of the Hagerstown team until we feel that he needs to move.”
Still, it remains a logical possibility that Harper will start the second half with a promotion to Class A Potomac. It’s all but a certainty that he will end up there before the end of this season. Whenever Harper arrives in Potomac, the Nationals will be putting their most prized assert literally on shaky ground.
The field conditions at Pfitzner Stadium are famously atrocious. Rainouts occur frequently on clear night the day after a storm, the outfield still logged with water. Ownership in Potomac installed a new drainage system this offseason, but it has seemingly not helped much. Today, their last game of the first half was rained out. There was very little rain. Earlier this year, Potomac switched three “home” games to the park in Frederick because its field was unplayable.
One source in Potomac said earlier this year the first thing Nationals officials do once they arrive in Potomac is walk out to right field and inspect the ground. Right field is where the new drainage system. It’s also where Harper will receive the brunt of his playing time.
“We’ve addressed some field concerns with ownership, and they’ve taken steps to improve them,” Rizzo said. “It’s something long-term we certainly need to address again after the season. We’ve met with them several times, and they know we have a plan at the end of the season to re-address it.
“There’s no safety concern. If there was safety concerns, we wouldn’t be playing there. We would pull the players off the field. There’s no safety concern whatsoever. But we’d like a better playing facility for our players.”