Bryce Harper went 1 for 4 for with a single and two strikeouts last night in his return from left hip inflammation. His single came on a routine groundball to third base, which he beat when sprinted down line in 4.2 seconds according to one scout’s stopwatch.
“I’m not worried too much about his running,” Manager Davey Johnson said. “I was more worried later in the game when he started tearing up a helmet.”
Harper, as he is prone to do, added some variety to his return in the eighth inning. After Mets reliever Vic Black struck out Harper swinging at a curveball below the knees, Harper returned the Nationals dugout and smashed his bat on the Nationals’ helmet rack. (Video here.) Then he smashed it again. And again, until the wood splintered. Then Harper pounded his helmet into a cubby.
“He expects himself to do well every time up,” Johnson said. “Sometimes, it doesn’t happen that way. He takes it out on something. He needs to quit that.”
Harper has a frightening history with smashing his bat. Weeks into his major league career, Harper smashed his bat off a wall in the clubhouse in Cincinnati. The bat ricocheted and hit him in the eye, opening a gash that left with a black eye and a large bump and required several stitches. “He doesn’t know how close he came to ending his career,” one Nationals official said at the time.
“I worry about the backlash of the helmet or the bat,” Johnson said. “But he’ll get through that.”
As for Harper’s on-field performance, Johnson thought he looked healthy but slightly out of practice.
“I think Bryce is going to be better today,” Johnson said. “He was a little rusty after missing three days. He’s fine.”