Bryce Harper makes first career start in leadoff spot

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Bryce Harper has hit mostly third (51 times) and occasionally second (five times) this season, but manager Davey Johnson chose to mix things up today, moving him into the leadoff spot and dropping Denard Span down to seventh.

Obviously, this has more to do with Span’s poor play and the struggles of the Nationals’ offense as a whole than any desire to see Harper hit with fewer men on base. After an excellent first week and a half as a National, Span has hit .246/.293/.341 in his last 78 games. Although he’s been a fixture in the leadoff spot, he’s scored just 32 times in that span.

Harper has hit .265/.372/.526 for the season. The two hole seems like the ideal spot for his bat, but if Span isn’t getting on, the Nats might as well let him with the bases empty and no outs instead of the bases empty and one out. They have rookie Anthony Rendon batting second and Ryan Zimmerman batting third today.

Max Fried loses to Braves in salary arbitration

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Pitcher Max Fried lost to the Atlanta Braves in salary arbitration and will make $13.5 million in the upcoming season instead of his $15 million request.

Mark Burstein, Fredric Horowitz and Jeanne Vonhof issued their decision a day after hearing arguments.

Despite the defeat, Fried matched the $13.5 million Gerrit Cole won in 2019 as the highest decided by an arbitration panel.

Fried won a $6.85 million salary last year in arbitration instead of the team’s $6.6 million proposal.

He followed former Atlanta teammate Dansby Swanson in going to a hearing in consecutive years. Swanson, a shortstop, lost in 2021 and won last year, then signed a seven-year, $177 million contract with the Chicago Cubs.

The last player to win hearings in consecutive years was pitcher Trevor Bauer against Cleveland in 2018 and 2019.

Fried, a 29-year-old left-hander, went 14-7 for the second straight season and lowered his ERA to 2.48 from 3.04 in 2021. Fried was a first-time All-Star last season, was second to Miami’s Sandy Alcantara in Cy Young Award voting and was third in the National League in ERA behind Alcantara and Julio Urias of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

In 2021, Fried pitched six shutout innings in World Series Game 6 as the Braves won their first title since 1995.