Bryce Harper strikes out against Max Scherzer in return to D.C.

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Following nearly an hour-long rain delay, Tuesday’s series opener between the Phillies and Nationals in Washington, D.C. The big news, of course, is that it is Bryce Harper‘s return to Nationals Park after signing a 13-year, $330 million contract with the Phillies.

The build-up to Harper’s return has been nothing short of glorious. Fans have destroyed or otherwise defaced the Harper jerseys they spent actual money on. The mayor compared Harper to Benedict Arnold. Fans have been instructed to boo Harper or take a hike.

After Andrew McCutchen and Jean Segura each hit singles to start the ballgame, Harper at long last stood in the batter’s box facing Max Scherzer. Harper was booed lustily by his former home fans. Scherzer started off with strike one, a fastball that caught the corner. Harper swung and missed at a cutter for strike two, fouled off a 97 MPH fastball, then took two balls to even up the count. Scherzer then tossed a change-up that dipped under the strike zone, getting Harper to swing over the top of it for strike three. The crowd at Nationals Park erupted in cheers.

Fortunately, everyone is being cool about it.

Harper struck out again in the third inning:

(Reference 1 and Reference 2, for the uninitiated.)

MLB, union resume blood testing after pandemic, lockout

Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports
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NEW YORK – In the first acknowledgment that MLB and the players’ association resumed blood testing for human growth hormone, the organizations said none of the 1,027 samples taken during the 2022 season tested positive.

HGH testing stopped in 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Testing also was halted during the 99-day lockout that ended in mid-March, and there were supply chain issues due to COVID-19 and additional caution in testing due to coronavirus protocols.

The annual public report is issued by Thomas M. Martin, independent program administrator of MLB’s joint drug prevention and treatment program. In an announcement accompanying Thursday’s report, MLB and the union said test processing is moving form the INRS Laboratory in Quebec, Canada, to the UCLA Laboratory in California.

MLB tests for HGH using dried blood spot testing, which was a change that was agreed to during bargaining last winter. There were far fewer samples taken in 2022 compared to 2019, when there were 2,287 samples were collected – none positive.

Beyond HGH testing, 9,011 urine samples were collected in the year ending with the 2022 World Series, up from 8,436 in the previous year but down from 9,332 in 2019. And therapeutic use exemptions for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder dropped for the ninth straight year, with just 72 exemptions in 2022.

Overall, the league issued six suspensions in 2022 for performance-enhancing substances: three for Boldenone (outfielder/first baseman Danny Santana, pitcher Richard Rodriguez and infielder Jose Rondon, all free agents, for 80 games apiece); one each for Clomiphene (Milwaukee catcher Pedro Severino for 80 games), Clostebol (San Diego shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. for 80 games) and Stanozolol (Milwaukee pitcher J.C. Mejia for 80 games).

There was an additional positive test for the banned stimulant Clobenzorex. A first positive test for a banned stimulant results in follow-up testing with no suspension.