Nationals option Bryce Harper to Triple-A Syracuse

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Nationals manager Davey Johnson told reporters at the start of spring training that he was open to the idea of Bryce Harper earning a spot on the Opening Day roster. But it was a longshot from the start, and any hope of it happening has now been crushed.

According to Mark Zuckerman of CSN Washington’s Nats Insider, Harper has been optioned to Triple-A Syracuse, where he will begin the 2012 regular season and play primarily in center field.

Harper went 8-for-28 with zero homers, two walks and 11 strikeouts this spring in the Grapefruit League. A calf injury cost him over a week of playing time.

The 19-year-old phenom should debut for the Nationals by the middle of this summer, and could be up as early as June if he gets off to a hot start in April and May in the Triple-A International League.

Aaron Judge was involved in a weird play in the fourth inning

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Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge found himself front-and-center in a weird play in the bottom of the fourth inning during Game 4 of the ALCS on Tuesday evening. Judge drew a walk to lead off the frame. After Didi Gregorius lined out, Gary Sanchez flied out to shallow right-center.

Judge must have thought the ball had a high probability of falling in for a hit, so he was past the second base bag around the time he realized his mistake. He retraced his steps, running back to first base. Reddick’s throw hopped a couple of times but first base umpire Jerry Meals called Judge out on the tag-up play.

Manager Joe Girardi requested a review and the call was overturned: Judge was safe. However, Astros manager A.J. Hinch wanted to challenge that Judge did not re-touch second base on his way back. Rather than issuing a formal challenge, the Astros had to appeal the play by having starter Lance McCullers throw to second base, at which point second base umpire Jim Reynolds would issue a ruling. McCullers was a bit hasty, though, and made his appeal throw before Greg Bird stepped into the batter’s box. Reynolds told McCullers that he had to wait. So, McCullers again made his appeal throw.

This time, Judge was running and he was simply tagged out at second base for the final out of the inning. No need for a review.

As Ken Rosenthal explained on the FS1 broadcast, the Yankees were trying to “beat the police.” They knew Judge would have been ruled out — replays clearly showed he never re-touched the base — so they had nothing to lose by sending Judge. If he was safe, the Astros would no longer be able to appeal the play. If he’s out, then it’s the same outcome they would have had anyway.