Harper has stumped for Atlanta Braves third baseman Chipper Jones, who is also on the five-man ballot for the final spot on the all-star roster that is determined by fan votes. Harper said he grew up watching Jones play on national television and admired his ability, and felt that he deserved to be recognized.
Johnson – who humorously didn’t understand the final all-star spot process, at one point asking if the votes were mail-ins – said he preferred that Harper not be selected so he can rest.
“Chipper should be on it, period,” Johnson said. “Not somebody with 200 at-bats, first year. But that’s just my way of thinking.”
Harper has started in all but one of the 57 games the Nationals have played since he was called up on April 27. The one game he did not start – on June 10 in Boston in which he scored the winning run as a pinch-hitter in the ninth inning – Harper wasn’t happy because he wanted to play and Johnson held him out because of his sore back. He still receives treatment for it.
Harper, a former catcher, is still learning to play his new position in center field.
“You’re always moving just about on every pitch,” Johnson said. “[Third base coach] Bo Porter says that [he’s] not your glider, he’s more a quarter horse going after it, instead of a thoroughbred. But he’s young and strong and 19 and I’m sure he’ll get banged up. I don’t think he’s tried. But I would like to see him get the time off. It is a demanding position. And every time I get a chance, I’ll move him to one of the corners to basically rest his legs.”
Harper said he was physically fine. If he didn’t make the team, he considered it more a opportunity to get a mental break than a physical one and go home to Nevada for five days.
“I’m excited to go home,” he said. “If I don’t make the team, I think it’d be good for me to go home, get away from the world and be Bryce, be normal, just hang out with the family and get some good home-cooked meals and hit with my pop and just hang out.”
Harper was third in voting results released by Major League Baseball on Tuesday, trailing Jones and St. Louis Cardinals third baseman David Freese. The voting ends Thursday at 4 p.m.
Asked if he had voted for Jones yet, Harper said: “No, I didn’t. I don’t vote. Sorry.”
Johnson, asked if he would vote online for Harper, offered his own humurous response: “I go online for a lot of things and that’s not one of them.”
“When I managed an all-star game about 12 years ago, or 20 years ago, we didn’t have this. Is this an honorary selection? I don’t know. I don’t really understand this five people getting a runoff on and how they got nominated. Is it a popularity contest? Or is it an honorary? I don’t know what it is to begin with. … If it’s whose got the most Tweeters following them, maybe that’s it. I don’t know.”
During a news conference this afternoon, a reporter asked the Nationals’ three all-stars how often they had voted for Harper. Shortstop Ian Desmond grabbed the microphone and shot back, to laughter, “The question is, how many times did you vote for Bryce?”
In a brief stump speech for Harper’s inclusion, Desmond inadvertently touched on one reason why it would benefit Harper to sit out the showcase – his willingness to play through a tender lower back that could use rest.
“Let’s not forget that we’ve got a 19-year-kid in our clubhouse who’s obviously been a huge impact on our team this year,” Desmond said. “He’s come out. He’s obviously battled through a couple little injuries. At 19 years-old, there’s that question that you ask yourself: should I keep on playing? Should I not?
“He’s been out there every day grinding for us. He’s put up some numbers. He’s obviously impacted the game, whether it’s offensively or defensively. I mean, this guy deserves to go the All-Star Game. Whatever we got to do to push him in there, we’ve got to go the extra mile. … If we could get this kid to the game, it would be outstanding to have four of us there.”
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