Harper makes jug­gling de­but in left

The Washington Post Sunday - - COLLEGE BASKETBALL -

Bryce Harper be­gan an­other new sea­son Satur­day with an­other new view. He set­tled into left field in the Na­tion­als’ first Grape­fruit League game, his new po­si­tion with De­nard Span tak­ing over in cen­ter and Jayson Werth still lay­ing claim to right.

“I’ve switched po­si­tions ev­ery year, I guess you could say,” Harper said. “First year I played in right, sec­ond year I played here in cen­ter field, and this year I’m play­ing left.”

Harper has played left field be­fore, dur­ing his first pro­fes­sional sea­son at Class A Hagerstown. No one thinks Harper will have any trou­ble with re­gain­ing com­fort in left — he’s too gifted an ath­lete and too nat­u­ral a player. But there will be some ad­just­ment.

Balls hit by left-handed bat­ters are dif­fi­cult to read in left field, be­cause they tend to hook down the line. Man­ager Davey John­son said that would be the most dif­fi­cult dif­fer­ence, and Harper re­ceived an ad­ven­tur­ous les­son Satur­day.

In the third in­ning, Kirk Nieuwen­huis roped a liner to left off Craig Stam­men. Harper sprinted to his right and stabbed at the ball. He knocked the ball down off the heel of his glove, bopped it back into the air with his right fore­arm, then snagged it with his glove for a jug­gling out.

“High­light film,” John­son said. “It’s al­ways some­thing with him.”

“There was just a lit­tle bit of fade on it, but I caught, so I don’t care,” Harper said. “It’s an out.”

Harper’s pres­ence in left field will also mean a slight ad­just­ment for Ian Des­mond. First, he’s not quite as wor­ried about the out­fielder be­hind him.

“He’s a big kid, but he’s no [Michael] Morse,” Des­mond said. “I’m not quite as scared run­ning into him as I was Morse.”

Harper can also cover much more ground than Morse, which will mean more need for com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween Des­mond and his left fielder.

“He’s ob­vi­ously a very good out­fielder,” Des­mond said. “He got so much bet­ter last year. He’s just go­ing to con­tinue to progress. Hav­ing him in left, be­ing able to cover a ton of ground, and then De­nard in cen­ter, there’s not go­ing to be too many balls I’m go­ing to have to go for over my head.”

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