Flash back to late September 2015. The lowly Phillies are visiting the Nationals for an afternoon game. It’s tied 4-4 in the bottom of the eighth inning when outfielder Bryce Harper steps up to the plate to lead off the inning against reliever Dalier Hinojosa. With a 1-2 count, Harper skied a fastball to shallow left field. He did not appear to run hard out of the box.
When Harper returned to the dugout, teammate Jonathan Papelbon, who got the final out of the top half of the eighth, started barking at him. Papelbon was not happy that Harper wasn’t running hard out of the box. Words turned into shoving, and shoving turned into Papelbon choking Harper.
The Nationals went on to lose 12-5, in part because Papelbon gave up a tie-breaking two-run home run to Andres Blanco in the top of the ninth.
The two, though, have mended fences since then and there have been no further issues. Reliever Drew Storen, then a teammate of Harper and Papelbon’s and now a Red, was asked about the two when he appeared on MLB on TuneIn’s “The bullpen with David Aardsma” last month. Specifically, he was asked who would win a “legit fight” between Harper and Papelbon.
As Scott Allen of the Washington Post reports, Storen said, “I gotta take Pap. This is a shot in the dark because I don’t know either’s fighting ability, but the one thing about Pap, when I saw him in person in the clubhouse, as opposed to on the field, he’s a really big guy. I later found out that he got recruited to play tight end at Mississippi State along with playing baseball. He’s a very big human being, so just from that principle alone, I’m going to take the size. And he’s got the eyes, he’s got the look that he knows how to fight.”
Allen points out that Papelbon is listed at 6’5″ and 230 pounds while Harper is listed at 6’3″ and 215 pounds.