Matt Williams quashed any speculation the Nationals would consider demoting the struggling Bryce Harper to the minors on Wednesday afternoon, criticizing reporters who may have thought his words on the subject during an earlier radio interview suggested it was a possibility.
“I will caution everybody in this room: The minute you think you can read my freaking mind, you’re sorely mistaken, OK?” Williams said when asked if a Harper demotion is within the realm of possibility right now. “It [ticks] me off to even think about the fact that somebody would take a comment I make on the radio and infer that I’m thinking one way or the other. I’ve had it. Don’t do it any more.
“Bryce Harper’s one of the guys on our team. He’s a very important part of our team. Just like everybody else is. Do we understand each other? It’s not fair to the kid, it’s not fair to the other guys in that clubhouse, to even think about sending Bryce Harper to the minor leagues, or to cause a stir. It’s unacceptable. It won’t happen.”
Williams had been less committal when asked a similar question Wednesday morning during his weekly appearance on 106.7 FM.
“Is it a terrible idea — just a wacky idea — to send him down to Syracuse for a week, just to get him right? Is that just a stupid idea on my part?” the manager was asked.
“I don’t know,” Williams replied. “I don’t think it’s stupid. Generally, if you have young players, that’s what you do. But this guy is a special young player. We all know that. It’s different. I think he works hard every day. He’s the first one in the ballpark, generally, to get his day going. He’s grinding. We’re doing everything we can to get a good feel going in there and help him with his confidence and all that. It’s not easy, by any stretch. But I don’t know if it’s a good idea at this point to do that, because it’s completely different pitching. We all know the big difference between Triple-A pitching and big-league pitching. It’s probably more of an option to have him feel good here, get it back. We’ve seen him, certainly, good and hitting well. For me, it’s not necessarily that he can’t hit, of course. It is that he’s in some kind of a slump. What we have to do is try to work our way through it and get him out of it as quickly as possible. He grinds every day, you guys. He’s doing everything we can to get out of it, and so are we.”
Harper enters Wednesday night’s game against the Mets hitting .249 with three homers, 14 RBI and a .692 OPS that ranks 181st out of 286 major-league hitters with at as many plate appearances this season.