WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Nationals Spring Training has officially sprung into action now that everyone has reported to camp.
However, will this be the last one in West Palm Beach for Bryce Harper?
He knows he’ll be facing a multitude of questions regarding his upcoming free agency throughout the season. He tried to get a jump on that Monday, by saying all inquiries should be addressed to his agent, Scott Boras.
“I’m focused on this year, focused on winning and playing hard like every single year,” he added.
Harper also said he won’t let his contract status be a distraction.
“I just think that every single year that I go in, I have my same goals, my same plans and that’s to win. That it’s to be prepared, to focus on every single day and do things I can (to) help this team win.”
Harper got some intel on new manager Dave Martinez from his buddy, Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant. The childhood friends talked a few times this offseason and Harper got a good report back on the former Chicago coach, saying Bryant “had a lot of great things to say about him.” Harper added that the few chats he has had with Martinez have gone well.
It’s a mutual admiration society.
Martinez has learned that Harper likes to have fun.
“Everybody sees this hard-nosed gamer, but he has very loose,” said the Nats’ new skipper. “I told him I want him to have fun, that’s part of it. I want you to enjoy it. You’ve been doing this your whole life, you’ve had fun doing this, so why change now? He’s very loose and very energetic and I love being around him.”
Harper is entering his seventh Major League season, but his first without Jayson Werth. He said it’s odd not having the longtime veteran around.
“He’s somebody I looked up to,” said Harper of Werth. “Every single day I came into the clubhouse, I always wanted to talk to him and see what he had for me. I talked to him a lot this offseason. One of the best teammates I ever had. Definitely going to miss him.”
The Nationals have narrowly missed advancing to the League Championship Series, losing in Game 5 three times in the past six seasons. Harper, though, remains optimistic.
“We have a great team and we’ve been so close,” he said, noting that he believes Martinez could be the difference.
“He’s going to bring an analytic side of the game that we haven’t seen before. Baseball’s turning to that more, so I’m looking forward to it.”
NATS AND NOTES: Reliever Koda Glover reported to Spring Training with a sore shoulder and is not throwing. An MRI revealed inflammation. Back and shoulder issues sidelined him the second half of last season.
Everyone is in camp except minor league pitcher Ismael Guillon of Venezuela. He’s expected to arrive before the end of the week.
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