Johnson has recently been able to afford Harper more chances to rest with the return of Jayson Werth from injury earlier this month. Harper faced left-hander Johan Santana on Friday and finished 2 for 3. But with another left-hander, Jonathon Niese, taking the mound on Saturday, Johnson wants to give rookie right-hander Tyler Moore the chance to play instead.
“Everybody’s contributed so far and I’m not going to just forget about the guys that had a pretty defined role until we got healthy,” Johnson said. “We’re in a good place. It’s where good teams need to be.”
Harper has been mired in the worst slump of his young career, seeing his batting average fall from .307 in mid-June to .249 now. It will be the third time he hasn’t started a game in the past nine days. Johnson said Harper has been swinging the bat well recently even though he has had little to show for it.
Johnson did, however, fault Harper for missing the cutoff man in the first inning following a two-run single by Daniel Murphy that allowed him to advance to second. Johnson complimented Harper on his performance after the game but reminded him about that ill-advised throw from center field that sailed to the backstop and told him he can relax on Saturday.
“He took it on the bench, but he’s already jumped all over one of my coaches, ‘I’m not tired!’” Johnson said. “But that’s good that he feels that way.”
Johnson also said that shortstop Ian Desmond will likely get a day off on Sunday and he will play Steve Lombardozzi instead. Desmond, an all-star, returned from a stint on the disabled list on Friday and pushed Lombardozzi, who was enjoying a stretch of strong hitting, to the bench.