Williams on Nationals' Bryce Harper: "Everybody knows it's coming and when it does pitchers are going to pay."

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Washington Nationals' skipper Matt Williams has been saying for several weeks now that he sees signs that Bryce Harper is close to returning to form. Williams told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s The Sports Junkies today that pitchers are going to pay when he does.

Matt Williams is sure that Bryce Harper is on the verge of turning things around at the plate. He's said so at several points over the last few weeks.

"'It’s coming. I know he doesn’t want to hear that, but it really is coming.'" -Matt Williams on Bryce Harper to the Washington Times

Williams talked to reporters including Washington Times' writer Paul St. Jean before the series finale with the Baltimore Orioles last week, explaining that he's seen positive signs from the 21-year-old outfielder.

After the first two games Washington played with the regional rivals, Harper was 4 for 28 with four walks and 11 Ks in 33 plate appearances after returning from two-plus months on the DL as he recovered from surgery to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his left thumb.

Harper was 0 for 4 the previous night, but Williams said he liked the Nationals' slugger's approach.

"It's coming you guys. Everybody knows it's coming and when it does pitchers are going to pay. And it's a process for him." -Matt Williams on Harper on 106.7 the FAN in D.C.

"'He popped the ball up last night and he was right on that one,'" Williams told the Washington Times' reporter.

"'He was right on the other pitches, too. The second at-bat last night was first-pitch changeup. His path was good and his timing was good, it was just a changeup.'"

"'It’s coming," Williams continued, "'I know he doesn’t want to hear that, but it really is coming.'"

Williams explained that he was watching Harper closely in batting practice and saw positive developments:

"'In his batting practice now, when he’s hitting the ball over the fence, say to right field, it’s straight and that’s the key,' said Williams. 'It’s not hooking, he’s not hitting top-spin liners, he’s driving the ball with backspin, it’s just pull-side.'"

Harper went 0 for 3 the next night in the series finale with the Orioles, striking out twice and lining out sharply to left the third time up before the O's walked him intentionally to get to Ian Desmond late in the game.

"Last night he came to the workout. He feels good. No issues with the thumb which is good and last night's batting practice was phenomenal..." -Matt Williams on Bryce Harper on 106.7 the FAN

"It's a good sign," Williams said of the opposite field line drive in the one at bat in which Harper made contact. "Staying on a baseball. The one he struck out on the at bat before is a really tough pitch, a pitcher's pitch, but him going the other way is a really good sign."

The next night in the series opener with the Phillies in Philadelphia, PA's Citizens Bank Park, Harper went 1 for 4 with his first home run since April 9th.

The Nats' 2010 no.1 overall pick finished the first half by going 2 for 9 in the three-game set with the Phillies.

"He was real aggressive tonight," Williams told reporters after Harper homered on a high heater from A.J. Burnett in the first of the three games in Philadelphia. "Hit the first-pitch curve ball the first time up. Wants to swing, certainly, and really aggressive tonight. But he got the head out on that fastball. Hopefully it's a sign of good things to come for him."

Harper was 1 for 4 with three Ks in the first-half finale, leaving him 6 for 40 (.150/.244/.250) in 12 games and 46 PAs since he returned from the DL.

On the year, in his third major league campaign, the left-handed hitting outfielder has put up a .244/.316/.366 line with five doubles, two triples and two home runs in 137 PAs.

In an interview this morning, Williams said he assumes that Harper spent the time off during the All-Star Break working on his swing.

"If I know Bryce, he spent four days grinding about his swing," Williams told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s The Sports Junkies this morning.

"Last night he came to the workout. He feels good. No issues with the thumb which is good and last night's batting practice was phenomenal.

"So, it's coming you guys. Everybody knows it's coming and when it does pitchers are going to pay. And it's a process for him. You miss that kind of time, it takes some time to get back."

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