Washington Nationals' Manager Matt Williams talked about hitting Bryce Harper fifth on Opening Day and where the 21-year-old slugger might hit going forward in an appearance on 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s The Sports Junkies this morning.
"I like Bryce five," Williams explained, "because Bryce is going to get an opportunity to drive runs and ultimately that's what we need. We spoke about it many times in Spring Training. He's comfortable there and he's going to hit behind guys that have fantastic on-base percentages just like he does. So, that was the rational there, to stack that lineup a little bit against Dillon Gee and put him there and give him opportunities. And he came up a couple of times with those opportunities.
"That's what we're looking for. The chance for Bryce to come up with guys in scoring position and do a lot of the things that he does well: hit the ball to left-center, be able to take a pitch and drive it out of the ballpark and give us a big inning. And the fact that we want those middle-of-the-lineup guys to just simply hit. So that was the rationale."
Williams went on to say that Harper's spot in the order may change depending on what lineup is out there and what injuries occur, but he likes the Nats' 2010 no.1 overall pick hitting fifth. "He can move down to six," Williams continued. "He can also move up to two. Those are the spots that he can go to on an everyday basis."
• Today it's the six-spot for Harper as the Nationals face Mets' right-hander Bartolo Colon:
#Nats lineup: Span CF, Rendon 2B, Werth RF, LaRoche 1B, Zimmerman 3B, Harper LF, Desmond SS, Lobaton C, Gonzalez P— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) April 2, 2014
Tonight's game will be just the second of Harper's career in the six hole. The majority of his plate appearances (561 of 1099) thus far in his career have come in the two-spot.
Colon makes his first start for the Mets tonight in Citi Field and only his third career start vs the Nationals against whom the 40-year-old fastball throwing right-hander is (1-1) with a 1.59 ERA, two walks and four Ks in 17 IP.
Gio Gonzalez goes for the Nationals in Game 2 of 162 in 2014. In his career, the 28-year-old left-hander is (5-1) in eight starts vs the Mets with a 2.57 ERA, 21 walks (3.86 BB/9) and 43 Ks (7.90 K/9) in 49 IP.
Game time 7:10 pm EDT from New York...
• Here's the Mets' lineup: