The hits keep on coming for Bryce Harper. Just not all of them have been the kind the 21-year-old, two-time All-Star outfielder prides himself on.
Harper was benched in the sixth inning of Saturday’s 4-3 home loss to St. Louis for what rookie manager Matt Williams deemed “lack of hustle.” Harper was pulled right after he failed to run out a groundout and was 0 for 3 when he was removed.
“Inability to run 90 feet,” Williams told ESPN of the reason behind his decision to pull Harper. “Lack of hustle. That’s why he came out of the game. He and I made an agreement, this team made an agreement, that when we play the game that we hustle at all times.”
It’s been a season of twist of turns for Harper, who started the season in a 3 for 17 slump (.176 avg.) with eight strikeouts in first 18 plate appearances and was benched just five games into the season against Atlanta. Over the last 10 games, however, Harper has gone for 14 for 36, including four multi-hit games and an eight game hitting streak.
To his credit, the young phenom also took the news of Saturday’s benching like a seasoned pro. “I respect what he did,” he told ESPN. “That’s part of the game.”
Harper had recently been battling a quad injury, but refused to use that as an excuse for Saturday’s shortcomings, insisting he felt fine going into the game. Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo later told reporters he was in total support of his manager in choosing to discipline the team’s young star.
“I unequivocally support the manager’s decision 100 percent,” he said, adding Harper is expected to be back in the team’s lineup for the team’s series finale against the Cards on Sunday.
The 2012 National League Rookie of the Year is a .274 career hitter, with 43 homers and 122 RBI.