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Nationals manager Matt Williams: “I’ve got Bryce’s back, in every way”

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Matt Williams met with Bryce Harper yesterday and then made a concerted effort to diffuse any notion of perceived animosity between the Nationals manager and his 21-year-old star.

“I’ve got to let you guys know something: I’ve got Bryce’s back, in every way,” Williams said prior to the Nationals’ game against the Rockies. “And that will not change.”

The relationship between Harper and Williams was called into question after the outfielder openly questioned Monday night’s lineup, which had Harper (just activated off the DL) batting sixth and in left field, with Ryan Zimmerman moving back to his old position at third base.

Harper said he believed Zimmerman should remain in left field, with Anthony Rendon at third base and Danny Espinosa at second base. Without expressing it explicitly, Harper suggested he would rather play center field, with Denard Span the odd man out in the Nationals’ suddenly overcrowded outfield.

Williams talked to Harper afterward and made it clear he’s simply trying to put the young slugger in the best position to succeed and help his team win.

“I want him to play every day, and I want him to play the way Bryce knows how to play,” Williams said. “He’s going to hit in different spots in the lineup, and he’s OK with that. And he’s going to play in different spots in the lineup, and he’s OK with that, too.

“I know there’s a lot made of it, and I know there’s a lot of discussion about it. But he and I are good. There’s no rift. We have a conversation every day. I’ve got his back, and I support him all the way. I’m happy to write his name in the lineup every day. Who wouldn’t be?”

Harper didn’t make himself available during pregame media availability in the Nationals’ clubhouse.

Teammates seem less concerned with what Harper says and more concerned with making sure he stays healthy and productive, as he was during Monday night’s win, in which he reached base twice, drove in a run and made two impressive throws from left field.

“He brings a lot of energy to our team when he plays this way,” shortstop Ian Desmond said after Monday’s game. “The way he went about his business today, putting pressure on the defense, made a good throw back to first base there … that’s the kind of stuff that he does. When he plays, he impacts the game. But we need him out there every day.”

Williams echoed those sentiments yesterday, saying he’s not concerned with how other players might have perceived Harper’s comments.

“No, I let him know that I support you, that part of my job is to do that and that I admire his talents and the way he plays the game and how happy we are to have him on our team,” Williams said. “That’s the extent of it. That will not change, and there’s no problem between he and I, certainly. There never has been. I respect him, he respects me. Like I said, I’m really happy to put Harper in that lineup every day. Because it gives us a very good chance to go out there and win a ballgame.”

Report: Three minor leaguers arrested on Sunday after a bar brawl

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 10:  Dovydas Neverauskas of the Pittsburgh Pirates and the World Team pitches during the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game at PETCO Park on July 10, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
Denis Poroy/Getty Images
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Pirates minor leaguers Gift Ngoepe and Dovydas Neverauskas (pictured) were arrested on Sunday morning in Toledo, Ohio after a bar brawl, Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports, citing documents provided by the Toledo Municipal Court.

Ngoepe was charged with one count of simple assault and two counts of resisting arrest. Neverauskas was charged with two outs of resisting arrest and one count of misconduct. Tigers minor leaguer Warwick Saupold was involved as well and was arrested for simple assault.

Saupold allegedly punched Andrey Goncharuk (not a player for either teams’ affiliates) in the face outside of the Bronze Boar bar, which is across from the Toledo Mud Hens’ ballpark. Ngoepe allegedly wrapped his arms around the police officer who was attempting to arrest Saupold. Ngoepe allegedly twisted free from the officer and walked away. Neverauskas allegedly interfered with an officer and yelled, “What are you going to do, shoot me?” after being ordered to stand on the sidewalk.

Ngoepe, 26, is in his second season with Triple-A Indianapolis. The shortstop has put up a meager .644 OPS in 373 plate appearances.

Neverauskas, 23, was promoted to Indianapolis in mid-June. In 25 relief appearances, he posted a 3.60 ERA with a 24/11 K/BB ratio in 30 innings. The right-hander, who appeared in the 2016 Futures Game last month, is rated as the Pirates’ 25th-best prospect according to MLB Pipeline.

Saupold, 26, has appeared briefly in the majors for the Tigers this season, yielding eight runs on 17 hits and three walks with 10 strikeouts in 9 2/3 innings. He made five appearances from May 14 to 31 and one more on August 12 before returning to Triple-A Toledo.

Report: Yasiel Puig has been claimed on waivers

PHOENIX, AZ - JULY 17:  Yasiel Puig #66 of the Los Angeles Dodgers reacts after a strike out against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the ninth inning of the MLB game at Chase Field on August 17, 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
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Jon Heyman of Today’s Knuckleball reports that Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig has been claimed on waivers by an as-yet unknown team. The Dodgers can now attempt to work out a trade with the claiming team, or simply give that team Puig. In that case, the claiming team would assume the responsibility for the remainder of Puig’s seven-year, $42 million contract, which has two years and $14 million left. The Dodgers can also pull him back from waivers if they can’t work out a deal, but that would mean Puig would be ineligible to be traded for the rest of the season.

August 31 is the deadline for teams to acquire players on waivers and still have them become eligible for the postseason roster.

Puig’s relationship with the Dodgers has hit the skids as of late. He’s had a letdown of a season both in terms of injuries and production. In 303 plate appearances, he has a .260/.320/.386 triple-slash line with seven home runs and 34 RBI.

The Dodgers demoted him to Triple-A Oklahoma City in early August. Shortly after arriving, Puig celebrated a win with his teammates that included some profane language and was broadcast on Snapchat. The Dodgers were not very happy about that. Since then, the Dodgers were reportedly “trying to give away Puig” but didn’t find a taker.