bryce harper getty

Bryce Harper accused of begging out of a game in order to avoid Jose Fernandez and preserve a hitting streak

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If you thought the Washington Post’s Tom Boswell was provocative in calling Bryce Harper his seventh-best player in his latest column, get a load of his answer during his chat on the Nationals this morning:

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Unlike the thing about Harper being the seventh-best player — which was Boswell’s own, possibly disingenuous assertion — this sounds way more like Boswell passing along scuttlebutt of what he’d heard from Nats players, coaches and/or execs. We’re in no position to know for sure, but talking to some Nats fans on Twitter who pay close attention to coverage of the team reveals that Boswell’s m.o. is more about being a conduit for internal team sentiment and using his chats to mention things that he may not be able to get into a column than it is about stirring crap for its own sake. And, based on reading Boswell for nearly 20 years myself, he has never struck me as the sort of guy who gets all huffy about someone and then decides to mount a campaign against them a la Plaschke (see, Plaschke vs. Paul DePodesta, Plaschke vs. Puig, etc.).

So, what to make of this? Maybe I’m wrong and Boswell is just beating up an attractive target for the hell of it. Maybe someone — or many someones — on the Nats is suspicious of Harper. Maybe it’s the totally unhinged thoughts of one player on a bad day. Maybe there’s an undercurrent of anti-Harper sentiment on the team. Maybe Harper is legitimately reverting to some of the stuff that made him look a little bad when he was 16 or 17 or whatever and it’s rubbing people the wrong way.

But we can at least say that it’s not that often a veteran team which many think is playoff-bound gets catty like this in front of reporters. Implying that a guy oversold an injury in order to duck a tough pitcher is a pretty serious accusation, be it made anonymously or not. It’s something worth watching.

Orioles re-sign Michael Bourn to a minor league deal

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 04:  Michael Bourn #1 of the Baltimore Orioles hits a single in the fifth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays during the American League Wild Card game at Rogers Centre on October 4, 2016 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
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The Orioles have re-signed outfielder Michael Bourn to a minor league contract with an invitation to major league camp, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports.

Bourn, 34, joined the Orioles last year in a trade from the Diamondbacks on August 31. Though he compiled a meager .669 OPS with the Diamondbacks, Bourn hit a solid .283/.358/.435 in 55 plate appearances with the O’s through the end of the season.

Bourn, a non-roster invitee to camp, will try to play his way onto the Orioles’ 25-man roster. If he does make the roster, Bourn will receive a $2 million salary, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports points out.

Shelby Miller is in the best mental shape of his life

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 24:  Shelby Miller #26 of the Arizona Diamondbacks pitches in the first inning during the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on May 24, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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Diamondbacks starter Shelby Miller had about as bad a season as one can have. He was the headliner in the trade that sent 2015 No. 1 overall pick Dansby Swanson, All-Star outfielder Ender Inciarte, and highly-regarded pitching prospect Aaron Blair to the Braves. It was a trade that was pilloried at the time and continues to be pilloried to this day.

Miller didn’t do then-GM Dave Stewart any favors with his 2016 performance. He went 3-12 with a 6.15 ERA and a 70/42 K/BB ratio over 101 innings. That included a bout with mechanical failure, as he kept hitting the mound with his follow-through. He went on the disabled list. And after that, he was demoted to Triple-A. After getting fired, Stewart expressed remorse over acquiring Miller — or, more accurately, giving up Swanson to do so.

So, the 26-year-old Miller heads into 2017 without any momentum. To his credit, though, he’s going into the new season with a very positive perspective. Via Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports:

I’m just in a really happy place, away from the field, on the field. […]

Maybe it’s just the way I go about everything, trying to be positive in every single aspect of life. Baseball’s not perfect. I’m not perfect. I know bumps in the road are going to happen. Last year was obviously not just a bump, but a huge mountain. Right now, that’s completely behind me. I’m not worried about any of that.

I’m really ready for this year, ready to redeem myself so much.

Even pitching coach Mike Butcher sees the change in Miller’s mentality. “He’s not a different guy. But you can see there’s a presence in him. That’s what we need. Just be Shelby Miller. You don’t have to live up to anything. Just be yourself.”

Manager Torey Lovullo, too, praised Miller. “I saw a guy who had spent a lot of time taking care of his business in the weight room — he looks fantastic, in fantastic shape,” he said.

It sounds like Miller is not only in great mental shape, but great physical shape, too. Is it the “best shape of his life”? Only time can tell.