Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper is beginning to receive the “Barry Bonds” treatment, writes Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, noting that the reigning NL MVP walked 13 times (including four intentional walks) in just 19 plate appearances over the life of a four-game series versus the Cubs. Harper, who also hit a sacrifice fly and was hit by a pitch during the series, incredibly recorded just four official at-bats. Rosenthal spoke to Harper, manager Dusty Baker, and Reds first baseman Joey Votto (arguably the game’s most patient hitter) about Harper’s approach at the plate and how favorably he compares to Bonds. While all of the interviewed parties agreed that Harper isn’t at Bonds’ level, Votto expressed admiration, opining that Harper could eventually deliver seasons with a .500 OBP and a .700 slugging percentage. Harper acknowledged that it’s difficult to exhibit patience even when he’s being pitched around. “You want to hit, you want to be excited, you’re trying to do everything you can to help your team win,” he said. “But you have to have the courage in the guys behind you.” Beyond faith in his teammates, Harper noted that selectively knowing which pitchers to battle against — Jake Arrieta, Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke (pitchers that “are going to paint”) — is important as well. The interview is well worth a read in its entirety.
A few more notes from the NL East…
- David Wright is continuing to learn how to manage his spinal stenosis, a condition that will impact the remainder of his Major League career, writes Newsday’s Marc Carig. Wright explained to Carig that he had to test his limits earlier this season and thus played in four consecutive games, culminating in a day game after a night game, knowing that the club had an off-day the following day. Upon waking up on that fifth Day, Wright found that he could scarcely stand upright for more than a few minutes and had difficulty walking. “I learned right then that if I tried to do this during the whole course of the year, I’m not making it,” said the Mets’ captain. “It’s just not happening.” Wright’s condition means that manager Terry Collins will have to be judicious in his off-days, particularly during day games that follow night games.
- Corey Seidman of CSNPhilly.com spoke to Phillies farmhand Mark Appel about the team’s upcoming No. 1 selection in the draft, and Appel said that he hopes to get the chance to offer some advice to whoever is selected with that pick. “Looking back, it’s one of those things that it’s a blessing and a curse, it really is,” said Appel, who was selected No. 1 overall by the Astros in 2013 but traded to Philadelphia in the offseason Ken Giles blockbuster. “Whoever the Phillies take first overall, hopefully I’ll be able to meet him and share some of the things that I struggled with and failed at to make him a better player and hopefully see him realize the potential that he has.” The pressure, expectations and public nature of being selected first overall are “hard to explain,” Appel said, admitting that he placed too much pressure on himself after being selected by Houston. Appel is off to a better start with the Phillies, having pitched to a 3.00 ERA through his first 27 innings at Triple-A, although as Seidman points out, the 13 walks and 39 overall baserunners he’s surrendered in that time still suggest that he has some work to do.
- Braves GM John Coppolella and vice chairman John Schuerholz discussed the club’s historically bad start with USA Today’s Bob Nightengale. The pair continued to dismiss the notion that the team is tanking, and Nightengale writes that the Braves’ hope was to start out like the Phillies have this year — winning games while in the process of rebuilding. “It’s my first year as a GM,” said Coppolella. “I didn’t want to have the worst record ever.” Nightengale draws a parallel between the 2016 Braves and the 2014 Cubs, noting that there were many cries for president of baseball operations Theo Epstein’s dismissal at the time. The Cubs, of course, have baseball’s best record just two years later, and the Braves’ front office that their farm system, built in a rebuild similar to Epstein’s, will also yield quick results. Also of note, Nightengale adds that the GM continues to vow that Freddie Freeman will not be traded, and Freeman himself voiced a desire to see the rebuild through and spend his career in Atlanta. “I owe everything to this organization,” said Freeman.