What to watch tonight: Frenchy takes on New York

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With an unusually light schedule this afternoon, here’s what to watch tonight:

– At Citi Field, all eyes will be on No. 7, err, No. 12 as Jeff
Francoeur makes his unlikely debut as a New York Met against Johnny
Cueto and the Reds. The Mets have been shut out in three of their last
five games and haven’t homered in 66 innings dating back to last
Thursday. Omar Minaya hopes the Frenchy trade can “shake things up.”
We’ll see about that one.

– John Smoltz (0-2, 6.60 ERA) is still in search of his first win,
as the Red Sox take on the Royals. He looks to avoid a new-found
penchant for the big inning, including a four-run fourth against the
Athletics on Monday. Still, the 42-year-old Smoltz feels like he’s
“almost there.”

– Matt Kemp looks to continue to his hot-hitting against the
Brewers. He is 15-for-27 with a home run and nine RBI since Manny
Ramirez returned to the lineup. All this despite often hitting eighth in Joe Torre’s lineup.

– Cole Hamels (5-5, 4.70 ERA) toes the rubber against the Pirates
tonight. The Phillies, who started the season 13-22 at home, have won
seven of their last eight at Citizens Bank Park. With Pedro Martinez
and some guy from Canada on their radar, the Phillies seem poised to
run away and hide in the NL East.

– Jason Marquis (11-5, 3.60 ERA) sets his sights on becoming the
majors first 12-game winner against the Braves on Saturday night.
Because, as we all know, wins = awesome pitcher.

Bryce Harper will not be discussing his impending free agency with the media

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Bryce Harper is entering his walk year and it is widely expected that the Scott Boras client will, indeed, test out free agency next fall rather than engage in any substantial way with the Washington Nationals about a contract extension. There were some “casual conversations” between the parties in the early fall of 2017, but the Nats came away from that, quite reasonably, believing that Harper, who stands to land the largest contract in baseball history, will shop around.

For his part, Harper met the media on his first day of spring training workouts and let everyone know that, no, he does not plan to answer questions about his potential free agency every day between now and November. From MASN:

“Just want to let you guys know I will not be discussing anything relative to 2019, at all,” said Harper. “I’m focused on this year. I’m focused on winning and playing hard, like every single year. So if you guys have any questions about anything after 2018, you can call Scott and he can answer you guys.”

Makes sense. The alternative would be for Harper to give the same canned “I’m only focused on our next game” responses in front of his locker 150 times this summer, and that doesn’t serve anyone.

Thinking back to any other impending free agent’s comments about his free agency, I can’t remember a story along those lines which was worth much of anything. The genre generally consists of headlines which oversell an innocuous or offhand comment from a player as a means of guessing where his head is at with respect to his current team. I can’t think of any story in which a player, during his walk year, said something that concretely and definitively signaled his intensions in free agency one way or the other.

Reporters covering the Nationals who are curious as to how Harper feels about his current team at any given time would be better served just observing and inferring, with particular attention paid to how Harper and his teammates view the Nats’ competitive position as the season goes on, how they react to trades and stuff like that. There’s a lot of guesswork in all of that, but it sure beats trying to get a media savvy player like Harper to admit, after going 1-for-4 against the Phillies, where he plans to spend the next seven to ten years of his professional life.