Davey Johnson and Mike Rizzo were not arguing about Bryce Harper when a post game conversation got a little out of hand this past Sunday, as the Nats' GM explained to 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s Holden Kushner and Danny Rouhier this morning on The Mike Rizzo Show. Asked last week about the struggling 19-year-old outfielder, the Nats' skipper said the best way to get Harper turned around at the plate was to, "Just keep running him out there," knowing that the ultra-talented 2010 no.1 overall pick has the ability to eventually figure things out. Rizzo said the same today, telling the 106.7 the FAN in D.C. hosts that the best way to get Harper going is to, "Let him play every damn day."
"Just let him play," Rizzo explained, "Because we're a better team when Bryce Harper is in the lineup. For today, for tomorrow and in the distant future, we're a better team when Bryce Harper is in the lineup because he's one of our best players and he's an impact guy who changes the dynamic of the lineup. He's a guy that still to this point other teams circle on the advanced scouting report and they still pitch him like Babe Ruth and they know what he can do in the lineup. He's playing better and better and better defense in center field. He hustles and he's got energy and he's done an outstanding job for us, a terrific job, above and beyond what I could have ever expected from him going into Spring Training this year."
In 105 games and 456 plate appearances this season, Harper has a .248/.319/.410 line with 18 doubles and 12 HRs. In the second half, however, Harper's struggled mightily at the plate, putting up a .195/.266/.314 line with three doubles and four home runs in 42 games and 179 PAs. As for getting pitched like "Babe Ruth", Harper has seen the third-lowest percentage of fastballs in the majors so far this season at 46.5%, behind only the Rangers' Josh Hamilton (45.5%) and the Cubs' Alfonso Soriano (44.5%). Harper's gotten a steady diet of offspeed pitches and breaking balls especially from left-handers and so far has struggled to adjust.
Left-handed pitches have, "... made adjustments challenging him with a little more offspeed stuff," Davey Johnson told reporters last week including MLB.com's Joey Nowak and Bill Ladson, who quoted the 69-year-old skipper explaining that Harper's impatience is the biggest problem right now for the young outfielder:
"His impatience is chasing stuff out of the zone. But that is part of maturing as a hitter. You have to make a adjustments in this level when they are attacking you. Sometimes, it's like an open book. You are too stubborn to read the book."
In the first-half of the season, after injuries to the outfielders on the Nats' roster forced Harper to come up sooner than expected, Harper posted a .282/.354/.472 line with 15 doubles, four triples and eight home runs in 63 games. The last two months have been rough for the young Nats' outfielder, but as well as Roger Bernadina and Tyler Moore have been hitting, the Nationals appear determined to get Harper going again by running him out there everyday and allowing him to work through his issues.
• Listen to the Mike Rizzo Show With 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s Holden Kushner And Danny Rouhier: