Bryce Harper hitless in unofficial pro debut

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Nobody has cared about an instructional league game this much since, well, Stephen Strasburg last October. Oh well, here goes.

Nationals top prospect Bryce Harper made his unofficial pro debut earlier today, going 0-for-2 with a pair of strikeouts, reports Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com.

Harper struck out swinging on both occasions, according to Gonzalez, being caught out in front on a pair of off-speed pitches. The teenage hitting sensation started the game in right field, but sat down after five innings. Harper took the experience of his first pro game in stride, however.

“When you haven’t seen pitching for five months, it’s a little hard.”

“Everybody gets their Spring Training. This is mine.”

Little do the Nationals know, his now absent streaking eye black is actually the source of his super powers.

The instructional league schedule, which consists of 16 games, wraps up on October 12. According to Gonzalez, the Nationals want to see how Harper fares in his current “controlled environment” before they decide whether to send him to the prospect-rich Arizona Fall League. For entertainment’s sake, I hope he’s included.

Matt Shepard to be the Tigers new full-time play-by-play guy

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Fox Sports Detroit has named Matt Shepard their new full-time play-by-play guy for Tigers games. Shepard will work with analysts Jack Morris and Kirk Gibson, who will split time.

This is the move in response to former longtime announcers Mario Impemba and Rod Allen getting suspended and later fired following an in-booth altercation in Chicago last September. The two of them, who weren’t exactly friends, reportedly fought over a chair, with conflicting reports of how serious the fight was. An anonymous witness said Allen put Impemba in a choke hold. Allen recently gave an interview in which he denied that and said it was only some pushing and shoving. Either way, it ended their 16-year team-up for Tigers games.

Shepard has worked for Fox Sports Detroit for nearly 20 years, doing fill-in play-by-play for the Tigers — he replaced Impemba for the last few weeks of last season — and for Detroit Pistons games. Gibson has been a part time analyst for the network for the past couple of seasons, splitting time with Allen. Morris has done Tigers, Blue Jays and Twins games over the years, sometimes even splitting time between the Twins and Tigers, which is rather unusual.

Shepard is pretty good at his job. While Tigers fans liked and were familiar with Impemba, there won’t be a falloff in quality. Gibson makes some good analytical points and has a surprisingly sharp and biting sense of humor about him, but his gruff and monotone delivery is not everyone’s cup of tea. You get used to it. Morris is not my cup of tea — he tends to do a lot of the “back in my day” stuff former players often do — but I’m pretty sure he could recite the dictionary on TV in Detroit and a lot of Tigers fans would tune in. Such is life.