Was Bryce Harper just … kissing back?

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The plot — which was already kind of thin to begin with, even if it was fun — has thickened. CSN Washington reports that it’s possible that when Bryce Harper blew that kiss at the pitcher the other day, he was merely returning the favor from an earlier incident. As reported first by the Hagerstown Herald-Mail:

“Monday’s drama started in the first inning when Neal struck out Harper on a borderline call Harper didn’t care for to end the first inning. Some observers said Tuesday that the groundwork for the incident started there, with Neal sending a kiss in Harper’s direction after the whiff.”

In other words, this whole affair may be less about the unwritten rules and professional deportment than it is about the hot, simmering desire between Harper and the opposing pitchers of the Sally League.  Which frankly, is a way better story if you ask me.

Now, let us relive the passion:

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Shohei Ohtani no longer facing Masahiro Tanaka on Sunday at Yankee Stadium

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Shohei Ohtani has essentially become the Angels’ designated Sunday starting pitcher, but Angels manager Mike Scioscia announced Thursday morning that the 23-year-old two-way Japanese star will be skipped in the rotation this weekend at Yankee Stadium for “workload management” purposes.

Ohtani is fine to continue hitting, so there’s no sense of any physical ailment.

This decision will rob us — and the Japanese media — of a showdown between Ohtani and countrymate Masahiro Tanaka. And for that we are rather devastated, but you can understand the Angels’ concerns about overuse.

Ohtani has registered a 3.35 ERA, 1.066 WHIP, and 52/14 K/BB ratio through his first 40 1/3 innings (seven starts) as a major league pitcher and he’s slashing .308/.364/.582 with six home runs and 19 RBI in 26 games as a part-time DH.