Harper opens spring with long home run
On Feb. 15, two days before reporting to spring training, Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper posted an interesting photo on his Instagram story. It was of a digital scale reading 230, as in 230 pounds, and Harper was presumably standing on it, which meant he put on some significant weight during the winter after being listed at 215 pounds last season.
“I just felt going into the offseason you want to get as strong as you can, try to maintain your weight the best you can and just do everything the right way,” Harper said.
The muscle mass gain was clear when he arrived for camp at the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, and Harper put the additional bulk to immediate use in the Nationals’ Grapefruit League opener Saturday against the Mets in Port St. Lucie, Fla. He smashed the second pitch he saw, a hanging breaking ball from New York left-hander Sean Gilmartin, over the wall in right-center field at First Data Field to lead off the second inning. The ball landed well over 400 feet from home plate at the top of a mini hill, where it was picked up by a fan who had misjudged the trajectory, anticipating it to land further down the hill. It was an emphatic start to 2017.
“We were hoping he’d just run home, get in his car and drive back to our place,” Nationals lefthander Gio Gonzalez said. “What a day.”
Harper had one more plate appearance in the Nationals’ 8-6 win before getting pulled. He inflicted his damage in even quicker fashion in his second atbat, lashing a line drive to left field for a single on the first pitch he saw from right-hander Logan Taylor in the fourth inning.
“He came in, did his thing and went home,” Nationals Manager Dusty Baker said.
Trea Turner, Washington’s new starting shortstop, committed a throwing error on his first play of the spring in the first inning, but Gonzalez, Washington’s starter Saturday, worked around it and emerged without damage. The left-hander struck out Curtis Granderson swinging at a curveball, got Yoenis Cespedes to ground out back to him and induced a flyout from David Wright to retire the side. He threw 14 pitches — nine strikes — and his day was over after the scoreless frame.
“It’s one inning,” Gonzalez said. “It’s a good lineup they put out there. [Nationals Catcher] Derek [Norris] gave me a nice frame down there, and I was just trying to hit the target, just keep my eyes on the glove the whole time.”
Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper crushed a long home run off Mets left-hander Sean Gilmartin in his first Grapefruit League at-bat.