Nationals GM rules out calling up Bryce Harper this season

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During a radio interview today Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo made it very clear that 18-year-old stud prospect Bryce Harper won’t be playing in the majors this season.

Here’s an excerpt from the interview, via Mark Zuckerman of CSN Washington:

It’s not gonna happen, because he’s not ready for that to happen. He’s got to learn the nuances of the game of baseball. We certainly don’t want to push him to a level where he’s overmatched and struggles even for a short period of time. We’re just not going to put him in a place where he has a chance to fail until we feel he’s 100 percent ready for that level.

When he is, we will certainly bring him up because, you know, we want to win as bad as anybody else. There’s nobody that wants to win worse than I do. Believe me, if I felt he was ready to hit in the big leagues right now and perform in the big leagues right now, he would be up in the big leagues. If he gave us the best chance to win, he’d be up there and trying to help us win.

That’s not quite true, of course, because Stephen Strasburg clearly gave the Nationals “the best chance to win” immediately after he joined the organization and they waited to call him up until sufficiently delaying his service time. None of which is to say that Rizzo is anything but correct about keeping Harper in the minors.

He’s destroying Single-A as an 18-year-old, which speaks to his amazing long-term upside, but it doesn’t mean he’d also destroy Triple-A pitching as an 18-year-old, let alone big-league pitching. And the Nationals aren’t going anywhere this season anyway, so Harper can develop at a reasonable but rapid pace and likely reach Washington at some point in 2012–when he’ll still be all of 19 years old–all while keeping his pre-free agency clock from ticking.

Mike Leake loses perfect game bid on leadoff single in the ninth

Mike Leake
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Just one week after Taylor Cole and Felix Peña tossed a combined no-hitter against Seattle, Mariners right-hander Mike Leake worked on his own perfect game through eight innings against the Angels.

It was an ambitious form of revenge, and one that Leake served up perfectly as he held the Angels scoreless in frame after frame. He sprinkled a handful of strikeouts throughout the first eight innings, catching Matt Thaiss on a called strike three in the third and getting two whiffs — called strikeouts against both Brian Goodwin and Shohei Ohtani — in the fourth.

The Mariners, meanwhile, put up a good fight against the Angels, backing Leake’s attempt with 10 runs — their first double-digit total since a 13-3 rout of the Orioles on June 23. Daniel Vogelbach led things off in the fourth with a three-run homer off of reliever Jaime Barria, then repeated the feat with another three-run shot off Barria in the fifth. Tom Murphy and J.P. Crawford helped pad the lead as well with a two-RBI single and two-RBI double, respectively.

In the ninth, with just three outs remaining, the Angels finally managed to break through. Luis Rengifo worked a 1-1 count against Leake, then returned an 85.3-m.p.h. changeup to right field for a base hit, dismantling the perfecto and the no-hitter in one fell swoop. Leake lost control of the ball following the hit, issuing four straight balls to Kevan Smith in the next at-bat and giving the Angels their first runner in scoring position. Still at a pitch count of just 90, however, he induced the next two outs in quick fashion and polished off the win with a triumphant eight-pitch strikeout against Mike Trout for the first one-hitter (and Maddux) of his career.

Had Leake successfully closed out the perfecto, it would’ve been the first of his decade-long career in the majors and the first the Mariners had seen since Félix Hernández’s perfect game against the Rays in August 2012. For their part, the Angels have yet to be on the losing end of a perfecto. The last time they were shut out in a no-hitter was 1999, at the hands of then-Twins pitcher Eric Milton.