The last time there was a question about whether or not Bryce Harper was hustling down to first on a play, back in early August in a game against the Atlanta Braves, Washington Nationals' manager Davey Johnson and his 20-year-old outfielder had a discussion about the play in the dugout. The conversation, which appeared to be heated, was caught on camera, so Johnson was asked about it after the game, at which point he explained that he was asking Harper if the knee which kept him out of play for over a month this season was an issue.
"I went over to him," Johnson said, "I was concerned about his leg bothering him because he didn't round the base. And that was all that was about." Harper said the same when he spoke to reporters after the game, telling MLB.com's Tom Schad, among others, "'I just told him that I felt fine, and I didn't want him to take me out of the game. I wanted to stay in the game.'"
As the Nats' 70-year-old skipper explained it, Harper told him he'd just made a mistake. Harper, Johnson told reporters, said, "That he just messed up, you know. But it wasn't bad enough to come out of the game." Last night in the nation's capital, after Harper fouled of a 3-0 pitch with two on and two out in a one-run game with the New York Mets and then grounded out to end the eighth inning, he didn't exactly sprint down to first base. Randy Knorr, who was filling in for Davey Johnson, who'd left the dugout in the fifth when he felt lightheaded, told reporters afterwards that he felt it was just an expression of frustration on Harper's part.
"It's something that we've got to get to the bottom of and keep talking to him," Knorr told reporters after what ended up a 3-2 loss to the Mets, "because eventually we're just going to have to take him out of the game."
Davey Johnson was asked about the play this afternoon before the second game of three with New York. Here's what he told reporters on the scene in the nation's capital:
Davey said he'll have a talk w/ Harper about hustling, believes left knee is still hurting and probably the reason he slowed down last night— Chase Hughes (@chasehughesCSN) August 31, 2013
With regard to the comments last night re: Harper hustling, Davey said "I haven't seen a lot of it, I've seen a little of it."— Amanda Comak (@acomak) August 31, 2013
In giving his opinion on Harper's hustle, Davey mentioned Harper's knee. Said offseason surgery is a "definite option," which isn't a shock.— Adam Kilgore (@AdamKilgoreWP) August 31, 2013
Offseason surgery to remove bursa sac in Harper's left knee a 'definite option' Davey said. #Nats— Chase Hughes (@chasehughesCSN) August 31, 2013