Nationals full-squad workouts begin with all eyes on Bryce Harper
The Nationals formally met this morning as a complete group for the first time, gathering in their clubhouse as 8:30. Manager Jim Riggleman and other Nationals officials oversaw introductions and explained the schedule. Then, briefly, they tried to set a tone for the season of changing expectations.
"A lot of people in the room got to say a few words," Riggleman said. "My message to the team was, 'There's a tremendous amount of talent in the room here. With that talent, expectations get raised. Let's meet and exceed those expectations, and let's play baseball.' It's a great group that Mike [Rizzo] and the Lerner family have put together. The job we have now is to make this group a team."
With the start of full workout, the Nationals are taking live batting practice today. The schedule doesn't detail what pitchers will face what hitters. In other words, we don;t know yet who Bryce Harper will stand in against. He'll hit in a group with Chris Marrero, Brian Bixler and Corey Brown.
Harper didn't wear his warrior-paint eye black for his workout yesterday, and I guess it would have been pretty ridiculous for him to wear it during a light practice. When it comes to games, Riggleman said he has no set policy for how players wear eye black, but the other men in the Nationals' clubhouse may determine how Harper smears the stuff on his face.
"There's a lot of peer pressure," Riggleman said. "What looked like probably a different look that maybe he played with at times all of a sudden became nation-wide. You saw kids doing that. You turned the TV on to a college game or you saw a high school kid playing, and it's like they're emulating Bryce Harper. I think that that'll be something that the veteran players may peer-pressure him into an adjustment."
The Nationals will be careful with Harper after the workout. Yesterday, he was mobbed by autograph hunters, nearly pinned against a fence as people shoved paper, pens, bats and magazine covers into his face. The Nationals will meet again after practice, and they may need to adjust the manner in which Harper leaves the practice field in order for him not to get caught in another horde.
"I'm all about people signing autographs," Riggleman said. "But I don't think anybody would want to have to do that everyday after their workout for the length of time it would have taken him to sign all of those.
"We want him to sign autographs. But today in particular, we have a mandatory meeting. The mandatory meeting after the workout, we can't hold that up while somebody is signing autographs."
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