Nationals manager Matt Williams: “I’ve got Bryce’s back, in every way”

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Matt Williams met with Bryce Harper yesterday and then made a concerted effort to diffuse any notion of perceived animosity between the Nationals manager and his 21-year-old star.

“I’ve got to let you guys know something: I’ve got Bryce’s back, in every way,” Williams said prior to the Nationals’ game against the Rockies. “And that will not change.”

The relationship between Harper and Williams was called into question after the outfielder openly questioned Monday night’s lineup, which had Harper (just activated off the DL) batting sixth and in left field, with Ryan Zimmerman moving back to his old position at third base.

Harper said he believed Zimmerman should remain in left field, with Anthony Rendon at third base and Danny Espinosa at second base. Without expressing it explicitly, Harper suggested he would rather play center field, with Denard Span the odd man out in the Nationals’ suddenly overcrowded outfield.

Williams talked to Harper afterward and made it clear he’s simply trying to put the young slugger in the best position to succeed and help his team win.

“I want him to play every day, and I want him to play the way Bryce knows how to play,” Williams said. “He’s going to hit in different spots in the lineup, and he’s OK with that. And he’s going to play in different spots in the lineup, and he’s OK with that, too.

“I know there’s a lot made of it, and I know there’s a lot of discussion about it. But he and I are good. There’s no rift. We have a conversation every day. I’ve got his back, and I support him all the way. I’m happy to write his name in the lineup every day. Who wouldn’t be?”

Harper didn’t make himself available during pregame media availability in the Nationals’ clubhouse.

Teammates seem less concerned with what Harper says and more concerned with making sure he stays healthy and productive, as he was during Monday night’s win, in which he reached base twice, drove in a run and made two impressive throws from left field.

“He brings a lot of energy to our team when he plays this way,” shortstop Ian Desmond said after Monday’s game. “The way he went about his business today, putting pressure on the defense, made a good throw back to first base there … that’s the kind of stuff that he does. When he plays, he impacts the game. But we need him out there every day.”

Williams echoed those sentiments yesterday, saying he’s not concerned with how other players might have perceived Harper’s comments.

“No, I let him know that I support you, that part of my job is to do that and that I admire his talents and the way he plays the game and how happy we are to have him on our team,” Williams said. “That’s the extent of it. That will not change, and there’s no problem between he and I, certainly. There never has been. I respect him, he respects me. Like I said, I’m really happy to put Harper in that lineup every day. Because it gives us a very good chance to go out there and win a ballgame.”

Marcell Ozuna scratched from Cardinals lineup because he overslept

Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
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Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Cardinals outfielder Marcell Ozuna was scratched from Wednesday afternoon’s starting lineup because he overslept and missed the scheduled report time to the ballpark. Ozuna appeared in the on-deck circle late in the game but didn’t get a chance to pinch-hit as the Cardinals lost 5-2 to the Royals in 10 innings. The lowly Royals took two of three in the series.

The Cardinals acquired Ozuna from the Marlins back in December. He hasn’t hit much for the Cardinals thus far, batting .253/.295/.331 with three home runs and 22 RBI in 190 plate appearances. He was an All-Star last year, finishing with a .312 average and a .924 OPS along with 37 homers and 124 RBI.

It’s amusing reading some of the replies to Goold’s tweet. More than a handful of Cardinals fans are upset with Ozuna for oversleeping. Who among us has not overslept for school or work? Of course, a lot of the antipathy has to do with Ozuna’s lack of hitting. If he had a .900 OPS, it would be a lot easier for fans to forgive him.