Bryce Harper batting third for Nationals would make history


Ryan Zimmerman has been the Nationals’ primary No. 3 hitter for several years now, but manager Davey Johnson said yesterday that he’s leaning strongly toward moving Bryce Harper into the third spot this season because “he’s a tough out, he doesn’t swing at bad pitches, and he uses the whole field.”

He’s also still just 20 years old and hitters that young simply don’t hit third very often. In fact, in the entire history of baseball only one 20-year-old hitter has started more than 100 games batting third: Hall of Famer Al Kaline for the Tigers in 1955. He hit .340 that year and finished runner-up to Yogi Berra for AL MVP.

In addition to Kaline the only other 20-year-olds to start more than 80 games as No. 3 hitters are Arky Vaughan for the Pirates in 1932, Cesar Cedeno for the Astros in 1971, and Ken Griffey Jr. for the Mariners in 1990. Harper would be the fifth all time, assuming Johnson sticks with his plan for at least half the season.

Ryan Zimmerman’s spring training has been . . . weird

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Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman has played in exactly one Grapefruit league game this year, and that was way back on March 2. Since then he has been totally absent from the Nats’ big league spring games, playing instead on the back fields in sim games and in minor league contests.

While that’s not an unusual course of action for an injured or rehabbing player, both Zimmerman and the Nationals insist that there is nothing wrong with him. Per this report from MASN’s Mark Zuckerman, they’re saying that Zimmerman “simply prefers to get his work done in the more controlled environment of minor league games, where the rules are lax.” He doesn’t have to dive for balls, he can lead off every inning, etc. Manager Dave Martinez says Zimmerman simply doesn’t like the usual spring training grind and that this is working for him so he’s fine with it too.

Are you buyin’ that? Not sure I’m buyin’ that.

I suppose weirder things have happened. The Minnesota Twins once let Jack Morris go back to his farm in between starts rather than stay with the club. Other accommodations have been made for veterans, especially in spring training. But this is way more in keeping with a team hiding an injury. Though I have no idea why the Nats would choose to hide an injury to Zimmerman. They’ve talked at length about Daniel Murphy‘s knees and Adam Eaton‘s seemingly never-ending rehab. If Zimmerman has some aches and pains, you’d think they’d talk about it.

On the other hand, if this is a legit story and it is simply an accommodation for a veteran who doesn’t like the normal spring training grind, look for Zimmerman to be a trailblazer, because there are a LOT of dudes who hate spring training too and would love to change things up like this.