Good news, people: Bryce Harper is not fragile.
According to beat writer Amanda Comak of the Washington Times, the 19-year-old outfielder is back in the Nationals’ starting lineup on Sunday afternoon against the Braves despite departing the first half of Saturday’s doubleheader because of an ankle bruise that he suffered on a first-inning foul tip.
It looked like a painful injury, but he singled as a pinch-hitter in Game 2 on Saturday night and was only displaying a slight limp as he ran to first base.
Harper is hitting .270/.341/.442 with eight home runs, 12 stolen bases, 26 RBI and 47 runs scored through the first 73 games of his major league career. He will bat second in Sunday’s series-finale with Atlanta.
Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times unloaded a lot of interesting news items about the Rays last night, including a report that the Rays might have “mutual interest” in a deal with free agent first baseman/DH Mike Napoli. The Rangers declined Napoli’s $11 million option earlier this month and owe the veteran infielder a $2.5 million buyout.
Napoli, 36, had a strange year in Texas. He turned in 29 home runs, good for 11th-most among AL hitters, but finished the year batting just .193/.285/.428 over 485 plate appearances. According to FanGraphs, his -0.5 fWAR was the worst mark of his career to date, but on the bright side, he should come cheap for a team looking to swap out their veterans come spring.
Of course, the specifics of the Rays’ offseason plan have yet to be divulged — or, by all accounts from Topkin, even decided on. The club could go the refurbishment route, changing out some of their higher-paid veterans for a mix of prospects and cheaper aging players; or they could opt for a full rebuild, which Topkin cautions against as it could have a negative effect on the financing of a new ballpark. Either way, the Rays figure to offload some of their bigger contracts this winter, and will need to decide if they want to retain Alex Colome, Chris Archer, Wilson Ramos, Evan Longoria and others before pursuing any other major free agents.