If you watched last night’s game between the Brewers and Nationals, you saw a new look from Bryce Harper. And no, I’m not talking about his haircut.
Harper debuted a new batting stance, which featured some pretty significant changes. Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post has the details:
Harper made three changes. He stood upright with less bend in his knees. He held his hands lower, level with his chest. He relaxed his left elbow so it pointed at the ground behind him.
The overall effect made him calmer in his actions. Harper had been “jumpy” upon his return from the disabled list, Williams said. The new stance seemed designed to eliminate the anxiousness, to allow Harper to stay back and wait on pitches.
“I just felt comfortable, and that’s the main thing,” Harper said. “Going forward, I’m just trying to have some fun and relax a little bit.”
The early results are promising, as Harper went 3-for-4 with a solo homer. Check out the homer here and see the new stance for yourself. The 21-year-old outfielder was just 6-for-40 (.150) with 16 strikeouts over his first 12 games since coming off the disabled list, so perhaps the changes are here to stay.
Nationals hitting coach Rick Schu has described Harper’s new approach as “stack and jack,” which has a pretty nice ring to it. I can see it catching on.
Free agent outfielder/slugger J.D. Martinez is reportedly seeking an outfield gig, says Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald. According to Silverman’s sources, Martinez’s suitors have been informed that the veteran slugger would give preference to teams that can offer a corner outfield spot, rather than a DH-only role.
That could spell trouble for the Red Sox, who appear to be Martinez’s biggest suitors so far this offseason. Outfielders Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi are firmly established at the corners, and prior reports from club president Dave Dombrowski suggest that center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. is not going anywhere anytime soon (thereby eliminating the possibility of reshuffling the outfield). The DH spot is still wide open for Martinez, who doesn’t seem to be totally closed off to the idea, but any full-time or part-time role on the field is likely off the table at this point.
Of course, the Red Sox aren’t the only ones pursuing Martinez’s services this winter. The 30-year-old slugger has been linked to both the Diamondbacks and Giants in weeks past, and while they have the roster flexibility to accommodate his preferences, they’ll need to clear another massive hurdle: the seven-year, $250 million contract he’s said to be seeking. Both clubs will need to get creative to make such a deal work. The Diamondbacks are rumored to be shopping right-hander Zack Greinke in an attempt to free up some room on their payroll for Martinez, while the Giants appear more inclined to scour the trade market for outfield help than shell out cash for another hefty contract in free agency.