While some players track pitches during spring training to help regain their timing, Bryce Harper approaches every at-bat the same way: he wants to put a vicious swing on the baseball and get a hit. Nearly halfway through the spring’s games, Harper is already in mid-season form at the plate. He is hitting .444 with a slugging percentage of .806 and three home runs.
“Spring training is long,” he said. “I wish it would start pretty soon. But you got two weeks to work on things. I got to try to get better in the outfield and do things out there and still try to work with Denard [Span] and see how he communicates out there and things. And try to get a few more ABs underneath my belt. Like I said, it’s still March and guys are still getting better. Pitchers are still getting better. So I still got work.”
Ahead of his second season in the majors, Harper has grand hopes. He is approaching spring training with his same fiery drive. He is hitting left-handers, an occasional point of weakness last season. He is wrecking opposing pitchers. He hasn’t wildly chased many pitches outside the strike zone.
In Wednesday’s 8-5 win over the New York Mets, playing in his first complete game of the spring, Harper smashed a 1-2 high fastball from standout young pitcher Matt Harvey far over the right field fence for a three-run homer in the first inning. He also smacked an RBI single to left field in the seventh inning. From the three-hole in the lineup, he drove in Span and Jayson Werth with his homer. He has adjusted well to the new spot in the lineup.
“I like it,” he said. “I got two men in front of me that get on base and see a lot of pitches and they’re just going to make me better. Denard is an unbelievable leadoff hitter. He sees a lot of pitches. Werth is the same way. It’s just going to make the team better.”
While his bat appears ready for the season now, Harper still needs the time adjusting to left field and playing alongside Span. He has played only seven major leagues games there, spending more of his time in center field last season. In 2011 at Class AA Harrisburg, he played 37 games in left before switching to center. And, Manager Davey Johnson wants Harper to learn to hit the cutoff man from left, too.
“I feel pretty good out there,” Harper said. “I don’t feel bad. Sometimes with a lefty they get that sinking line drive out there and I gotta work on that. Just trying to really work with Denard to see how far he can really go in the gap. And see how he can get to balls. And if he can get, he can get it. I don’t really need to run that much.”