Bryce Harper is in the Nationals’ lineup tonight for the first time since he tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his left thumb on April 25. While the 21-year-old is making the start in left field tonight, he offered some pointed comments to Chase Hughes of CSNWashington.com this afternoon about where he’d prefer to play.
Basically, Harper believes that he should play center field while Ryan Zimmerman should start in left and Danny Espinosa should start at second base. This would leave Denard Span as the odd-man out. However, Nationals manager Matt Williams has Espinosa on the bench tonight, with Zimmerman at third base and Span in center field.
“I’m in the lineup, that’s all that matters. If I had the lineup it would maybe not be the same. But he’s got the lineup card, he’s got the pen and he knows what he’s doing. There’s nothing I can do about it,” he said.
“I think [Zimmerman] is great and he should be playing left. Rendon’s a great third baseman and he should be playing third. And we got one of the best second basemen in the league in Danny Espinosa. Of course you want the best hitting lineup in there, and I think Rendon playing third and Zim playing left is something that is good for this team and I think that should be what’s happening.”
No offense, Bryce, but calling Espinosa “one of the best second baseman in the league” is a bit of a stretch. While he is a solid defender, he’s batting just .217/.284/.348 this season and has struck out in nearly 35 percent of his plate appearances.
Williams was informed about Harper’s opinion on the lineup and simply said that he’s “happy to have him back.” It’s worth noting that the Nationals haven’t committed to keeping Harper in left field permanently and had him play all three outfield positions during his minor league rehab assignment, so we’ll likely see some shuffling in the starting lineup in the days to come.
Cody Bellinger helped the Dodgers to their first lead on Friday night, going deep for his 39th home run of the season and setting a new National League rookie home run record in the process. With two on and two out in the third inning, the Dodgers’ slugger launched a 2-1 pitch from the Giants’ Jeff Samardzija, skimming the right field fence to give the team a three-run cushion:
The three-run bomb was Bellinger’s sixth of the season. In what is undoubtedly a Rookie of the Year award-worthy campaign, he’s logged 21 solo shots, 11 two-run blasts and a single grand slam. His historic home run topped former NL rookie leaders Frank Robinson and Wally Berger, at 38 homers apiece.
The Dodgers need to stay on top of the Giants to clinch the NL West or, barring that, have the Marlins pull off a win over the Diamondbacks. They currently lead the Giants 4-1 in the bottom of the fifth inning. The Marlins, meanwhile, are staying just ahead of the D-backs with a 9-7 lead in the top of the sixth.
A report from Barry Jackson and Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reveals that prospective Marlins’ owners Derek Jeter and Bruce Sherman have already initiated several key firings within the organization. While the sale of the team is still pending final approval next month, Jeter reportedly pushed club president David Samson to remove four special assistants this week: Andre Dawson, Tony Perez, Jack McKeon and Jeff Conine.
Hall of Fame infielder Dawson, outfielder Perez and Marlins’ legend Conine served as special assistants to the president. McKeon, who served as team manager from 2003-2005 (and briefly in 2011), was terminated from a 12-year post as special assistant to owner Jeffrey Loria.
The move didn’t come as a big surprise to Dawson and McKeon, Jackson and Spencer noted. It’s part and parcel of dealing with new ownership. But it was disappointing news nonetheless, especially as the long-tenured McKeon might lose an opportunity to return next September to manage one game and cement his status as the oldest manager in MLB history.
Should the Marlins’ sale go through in October as expected, this figures to be the beginning of several cuts. Per Jackson and Spencer:
Jeter also is expected to fire some people on the baseball side of the operation, though it’s believed president/baseball operations Michael Hill will be retained, at least indefinitely if not permanently.
Any replacements for those already released from the team have yet to be announced.