As Matt Williams explained after Saturday night's game, which saw Bryce Harper go 0 for 4 with two Ks, leaving him 3 for 21 on the year, frustration which was building over the first few games boiled over for the Washington Nationals' 21-year-old outfielder after he K'd swinging at what he thought was a ball in his final at bat.
Harper was seen on the television broadcast throwing things around in the tunnel that leads from the dugout to the Nats' clubhouse.
"Bryce's frustration in the last at bat tonight was he swung at a bad ball," Williams explained. "And so, at some point there's that tipping point where frustration shows itself. It's often times good to let it out too. You can go out there and act like it's not bothering you, but it bothers everybody. So, sometimes it's good to let it out. So we'll evaluate that tonight and talk about it and see what we can do tomorrow."
"It's one of the topics of conversation tonight," Williams told reporters who wondered if Harper might get a day off in the series finale with Atlanta on Sunday. "When that frustration rears its head, it's often times good to give a day. So we'll take a serious look at that tonight with the off day coming after that."
After a .239/.340/.391 spring in which he was working his way back toward 100% following offseason surgery on his left knee, Harper was kicked in the head sliding in high and hard at second base when he collided with New York Mets' second baseman Eric Young's leg in the season opener in New York. He went through all the necessary tests to make sure he had not suffered a concussion on the play. He remained in the game and appeared in every game after that before Sunday's.
Williams has consistently said that Harper's timing is just a "tick off" when asked about the Nationals' 2010 no.1 overall pick's "slow start" through the first five games he's played. On Sunday, a reporter wondered if Harper's struggles might be connected to the blow to his head in the season opener, but Williams said he really didn't think that was the case.
"I don't think so," the first-year skipper said. "He's shown no ill effects. He was tested that day. He was tested the following day and the following day. And I don't think so. His timing's off. He got frustrated. But, it's one swing away from turning it around too. That's young players and he's still very, very, young. So, it's going to turn though."
It's been a tough year-plus for Harper, who played through a knee injury last season which he's since said was a problem long before he ran into outfield walls in Atlanta and LA. He was eventually forced to spend a month on the DL waiting for the bursitis in his left knee to subside.
After a .270/.340/.477, 26 double, 22 HR, +4.5 fWAR campaign in 2012 in which he played 139 games and made 597 plate appearances, Harper was limited to 118 games and 497 PAs in 2013, finishing his second major league season at +3.8 fWAR with a .274/.368/.486 line, 24 doubles and 20 HRs. With injuries to Doug Fister, Ryan Zimmerman and Wilson Ramos already this season, the Nationals could use a productive Harper in the lineup.
Asked after Sunday's win over Atlanta if Harper would be back in the lineup for Tuesday night's game with the Miami Marlins, Williams said yes.