SALISBURY, Md. — Bryce Harper’s lingering thumb injury will limit his exposure in tonight’s South Atlantic All-Star Game. The Nationals have already pulled him from the pre-game home run contest, and he may get only one at-bat in the actual game.
Harper, the Hagerstown Suns’ right fielder, continues to feel soreness in his left thumb, the result of repeated “jammings” by inside pitches. He sat out the Suns’ final two games of the first half, on Saturday and Sunday, and the Nationals decided to scratch him from tonight’s home run contest. In addition, Suns Manager Brian Daubach, who is managing the North team in tonight’s game, said Harper, who will be batting third and playing right field for the North team, will be limited to only a few innings in the game, which could result in his getting only one at-bat.
This afternoon, Harper, 18, spoke for about six and a half minutes at an impromptu news conference at Arthur W. Perdue Stadium, and downplayed the severity of the thumb injury.
“The thumb’s feeling good,” Harper said. “I tried to take those two days off, and I got them, and now there’s time to rest it a little bit and be ready to go.”
Amid speculation that Harper could soon be promoted, the Nationals continue to give no indication what his immediate future holds. For now, he remains a resident of Hagerstown, where he maintains an apartment. But he sounded almost wistful as he spoke today about his Hagerstown experience, saying, “It’s been a lot of fun. I wouldn’t take anything back. I had a great team, a great club. . . . I had a great manager who made it fun.”
Asked directly about the promotion rumors, he said, “I’ll let the higher powers figure that one out. . . . I’ll do whatever they want me to — Potomac, Double-A, Triple-A, big leagues, whatever they want me to do.”
Harper also addressed the media firestorm that erupted June 7 in the wake of his much-dissected “kiss-blowing” gesture at a rival pitcher after Harper had hit a home run.
“I don’t really care what people say about me,” Harper said. “Everyone can write what they want to write and think what they want to think. But my family and friends, and everybody who’s been around me since high school and college, and everybody who knows me, knows what type of person I am. People are going to make assumptions. . . . They can do whatever they want. They don’t know me.”
The North team’s roster includes four of Harper’s Hagerstown teammates – pitchers Taylor Jordan and Chris Manno, third baseman Blake Kelso and catcher David Freitas. Kelso and Freitas are in the North’s starting lineup, batting first and fifth, respectively.
Delmarva shortstop Manny Machado – Harper’s teammate on the Team USA 18-and-under squad in 2009 – is batting second for the North.
“Manny, he’s a great shortstop. He knows how to play the game. He has that big league mentality out there,” Harper said. “Any time I can get around a guy like that, that’s huge for me. It picks my game up a little bit. There’s a lot of guys on these clubs who are big league caliber.”