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Posted at 6:53 AM ET, 03/ 1/2011

For Bryce Harper, no rush to judgment

By Adam Kilgore
Morning brushback

The most important thing to remember about Bryce Harper's seven-pitch, two-strikeout debut is that no important conclusions can be drawn from it. Some may want to use yesterday as evidence Harper's inability handle big league breaking balls. I'm not sure we can get that specific yet.

Yesterday, Taylor Tankersley and Ryota Igarashi, in a span of seven pitches, fed him five offspeed offerings. All of them were strikes, three of them on swing-and-misses. Maybe you want to glean that Harper will struggle with breaking balls. His most freakish attribute is his bat spend, and maybe pitchers will force him to slow his bat down with a constant diet of sliders, changeups and curves.

But, remember, this was one game, played under the unique circumstances of his major league debut. Afterward, Harper repeated again and again how comfortable and strong he felt. In his first game, though, there was surely some kind of extra feeling for him. "I don't if nervous is the right word," hitting coach Rick Eckstein said. "I know he was amped up."

And so, for one day, offspeed pitches were going to be extra difficult for Harper. He got too "quick" with his swing, both he and Eckstein said. His hands moved too early, his front shoulder opened too soon. Maybe on another day, he could have waited back and, as he said he wanted to do, "hit the ball over the third baseman's head."

One other Nationals played has experienced something mildly similar to Harper's debut at 18. Ian Desmond made his first spring training appearance at 19, months after the Nationals chose him out of Sarasota High in the third round. "I don't remember exactly how I felt," Desmond said. "It was something like, 'Swing, swing, swing, swing, and maybe you'll hit it. I didn't have quite the hype that he had. I snuck my way in. He has the whole entourage come in."

So, no matter how good he felt, Harper's excitement was probably going to add a unique degree of difficulty yesterday to having the patience to hit the curveball.

Now, the point here is not that Harper doesn't need the work or doesn't need to improve against major-league breaking stuff. Of course he must improve - that's why he won't start his career in the majors and probably won't get there this season. He's never seen anything quite like the halfway decent major league pitchers he saw yesterday.

I'm also not dismissing his struggles with breaking balls as the possible beginning to a trend. Maybe it is. But after one measly day and seven scant pitches, we still don't know what to make of Bryce Harper, Major Leaguer except for what we already knew: He's 18 and, in his words, "I've got a long ways to go."


Boz says the Nationals are more optimistic than they're letting on about their pitching staff.

Bryce Harper whiffed twice in his debut, then took it in stride.

Boz chatted

By Adam Kilgore  | March 1, 2011; 6:53 AM ET
Categories:  Morning brushback  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: The Nationals look sharp, and other notes from Game 1
Next: Today's Nationals lineup


After watching the game last night, there was only one conclusion: that the team attitude was demonstrably different. They hit aggressively, they ran aggressively, they set an aggressive tone. A fan can hope that this is a harbinger of a different approach to the 2011 season.

Posted by: joemktg1 | March 1, 2011 7:09 AM | Report abuse

"His most freakish attribute is his bat spend"

Hmmm. Maybe a cheaper bat would help?

Posted by: FeelWood | March 1, 2011 8:26 AM | Report abuse

FW- Heh. Good one.

I definitely am glad that Harper won't be with the Nats right away. I do hope that he starts in Potomac, or gets there quickly. Those will be some fun games to watch.


Posted by: kevincostello | March 1, 2011 8:54 AM | Report abuse

Can we please just enjoy that there were 3 posts this morning including one before 7am. I don't need a grammatically correct english paper, I just love starting my day with baseball news and appreciate Adam (and Mark at NI) and the work they do.

Also agree with what others saw last night. We took the extra base and I loved watching the double play combination early in the game. I can't remember the last time we had a catcher go from 1st to 3rd and the word is that Werth is also an excellent baserunner.
It's early but this sure beats 0 - 11. Go Nat's!

Posted by: sjm3091 | March 1, 2011 10:03 AM | Report abuse

Nats, plural, not Nat's, singular possessive.

Does that answer your question?

Posted by: Section3mysofa | March 1, 2011 11:24 AM | Report abuse

Sec 3,

Do you have anything else to contribute other than correcting other people's posts?

Posted by: bmmanion | March 1, 2011 12:38 PM | Report abuse

Sec 3,

Do you have anything else to contribute other than correcting other people's posts?

Posted by: bmmanion | March 1, 2011 12:38 PM

No, he doesn't.

That's how he makes himself feel important. He's got nothing really going on in his real life so he's gotta come on the interweb and find a way to be superior to others any way he can. In this case, playing grammar-police.

He does that quite alot.

Posted by: P00PY_MCP00P | March 1, 2011 1:22 PM | Report abuse

"That's how he makes himself feel important. He's got nothing really going on in his real life so he's gotta come on the interweb and find a way to be superior to others any way he can."

Spoken from deep reservoirs of experience, eh, P00P? Self-knowledge is a wonderful thing!

Posted by: bertbkatz | March 1, 2011 2:13 PM | Report abuse

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