Davey Johnson left the bench during the Washington Nationals' August 30th game against the New York Mets in Nationals Park with what bench coach Randy Knorr described afterwards as "lightheadedness." Knorr took over Johnson's duties with the 70-year-old skipper back in the Nats' clubhouse.
Mets' starter Dillon Gee held the Nationals at bay through 7 2/3 IP, but Steve Lombardozzi homered in a two-out at bat to get the Nats within one run and Denard Span and Ryan Zimmerman followed with back-to-back singles to put the tying and go-ahead run on base in front of Bryce Harper. Terry Collins turned to his bullpen at that point, bringing left-handed reliever Scott Rice out to face the Nationals' 20-year-old slugger, who had struggled against left-handed pitching in his second major league campaign.
With Jayson Werth on deck, Harper went ahead in the count 3-0, at which point he got the green light from Knorr. "I gave it to him as an option," Knorr would later explain, after Harper fouled off the 3-0 pitch and grounded out on the 3-1 offering to strand two runners in what ended up a 3-2 loss. "Lefty on lefty might be one of the best pitches he's going to get right there and he missed it," Knorr said. "He fouled it off and you could see the next pitch is a little bit tougher, and he hit it into the ground." Then a frustrated Harper made the mistake of not really running full speed to first.
Mets' second baseman Daniel Murphy bobbled the grounder Harper hit toward him, but made the play in plenty of time to get the third out of the inning. Knorr told reporters after the game that the Nationals' 2010 no.1 overall pick was dealing with a lot, but couldn't take it onto the field.
"The thing about Bryce right now that's tough," Knorr said, "he gets frustrated and I don't think he does it intentionally. But he's going to have to start picking it up a little bit. Because we've got everybody else doing it. And he gets frustrated at times and it just comes out of him. And it's something that we've got to fix."
"He's got a lot going on," Knorr explained. "It's hard for me to say. I'm not 20 years old in the big leagues and all that stuff going on around me, so it's something that we've got to get to the bottom of and keep talking to him, because eventually we're just going to have to take him out of the game."
Davey Johnson told reporters the next day he wasn't sure that Harper's knee was 100%, but nonetheless, the Nats' skipper explained, you never take anything for granted, not even a routine groundout. "'You hit a groundball, the guy could boot it,'" Johnson told reporters including the Washington Post's Adam Kilgore. "'You run. Anytime you quit going hard, it’s a losing attitude. With him, I’m between knowing if he’s babying his knee, because he’s usually 100 percent. But I’ll talk to him.'"
Harper's knee wasn't an issue. Several days later, however, it was revealed that Harper was dealing with a hip issue.
As for what Knorr described as all the things Harper had "going on" at the time, Johnson talked in late September, as the season came to a close, about everything his outfielder had dealt with in his second major league campaign. "He went through that period where everybody was getting on him for running into the wall," Johnson said, "and he had to deal with that and a lot of tension on him. He's learning how to get past that and not let it overwhelm him, not let him -- kind of not enjoy the game because of it."
"When you go through a period where you have all this attention," Johnson said, "that's new and you try to live up to hype and you try to do things, you try to do too much, and I think he's getting over that. I think he's back to enjoying and that's great to see."
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