Jedd Gyorko isn’t the only on-fire spring hitter.
Nationals left fielder Bryce Harper — who doesn’t turn 21 years old until October — went 3-for-3 with two doubles Tuesday in the Nationals’ 9-5 Grapefruit League loss to the Braves. Harper is now 6-for-8 (.750) this spring and “taking extra bases at will,” writes Mark Zuckerman of CSN Washington.
Harper was supposed to get a routine day off on Wednesday afternoon against the Marlins, but he talked his way into the lineup because both Jayson Werth and Denard Span are playing, and Harper wants to get comfortable with his fellow starters.
“I had him out of the lineup to rest him, and he said: ‘What am I doing out of the lineup? I want in the lineup,'” Nats manager Davey Johnson explained to reporters Tuesday. “I’m already getting it. He’s in.”
Harper batted .270/.340/.477 with 22 home runs, 26 doubles, 18 steals and 59 RBI over his first 139 major league games last season. He carries National League MVP potential into the 2013 campaign.
We’ve poked fun often at the spring training trope of players showing up to camp in the “best shape of [their] life.” Reds first baseman Joey Votto has turned that entirely on its head. Talking about his offseason, the 2010 NL MVP said, “I tried to get fatter. I succeeded at that apparently. We did all the testing and I am fatter,” Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Votto, of course, wasn’t trying to say he’s not in shape; he was just using some of his trademark self-deprecating humor.
Votto did get serious when discussing the state of the rebuilding Reds. As Buchanan also reported, Votto said, “I think we’re starting to get to the point where people are starting to get tired of this stretch of ball. I think something needs to start changing and start going in a different direction. I’m going to do my part to help make that change.”
Votto, 34, is under contract with the Reds through at least 2023, so he still has plenty of incentive to help see the rebuild through. He has been nothing short of stellar over the last three seasons. This past season, he hit .320/.454/.578 with 36 home runs, 100 RBI, and 106 runs scored in 707 appearances across all 162 games. Votto led the majors in walks (134) and on-base percentage and led the National League in OPS (1.032).
Despite Votto’s presence, both FanGraphs and PECOTA are projecting the Reds to put up a 74-88 record. The club had a pretty quiet offseason, expecting to enter 2018 with largely the same roster as last year.