Ryan Howard isn’t fond of platoon talk

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For several years, many have suggested that the Phillies ought to platoon first baseman Ryan Howard with a right-handed hitter who can handle lefties. In the past, John Mayberry, Jr. was one option and more recently, Darin Ruf seems tailor-made for the role.

Per CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury, Howard is keeping the mindset of an everyday player, saying, “That’s negative. If I think negative, if I think I can’t hit lefties, I might as well not go out there at all.” More from Salisbury:

Howard believes a healthy left leg will allow him to be better against lefty pitching in 2014.

“Being able to now have two legs and being able to be a little more stable in the box, it will allow me to stay back a little bit longer and kind of see balls,” he said Saturday. “When my legs are going good and everything is going well I can hit lefties. It’s just a matter of being able to be stable in the box.”

Howard’s weighted on-base average (wOBA) against right- and left-handed pitching since 2006 looks like this:

Year vs. LHP vs. RHP
2006 .386 .461
2007 .352 .427
2008 .319 .398
2009 .290 .450
2010 .359 .373
2011 .283 .385
2012 .261 .327
2013 .238 .371

The National League average wOBA for first basemen from 2006-13 has been .362, .358, .353, .360, .347, .340, .328, and .328, so Howard’s production against lefties over the last three seasons has been significantly below average. He can still hit right-handed pitching without a doubt.

Also from Salisbury, Howard says his goal for 2014 is to play in all 162 games.

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.