To say Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper is motivated for the 2014 season may be quite the understatement.
After experiencing success in 2012 with a Nats team that won 98 games and the NL East, he still isn't over falling short of a playoff berth last season. He's back and hopes things go much differently this time around both on and off the field.
Harper says he trained aggressively to come back from the knee surgery he had in October, sometimes hitting the gym several times a day. Now he's excited for a new year, and perhaps a new Bryce.
Harper, in fact, is simply tired of hearing jokes about him running into the wall. Here is what he told CSN's Mark Zuckerman in a one-on-one interview on Geico SportsNet's Central:
"Everybody is still on the 'clown question' and all that crap, too. It's in the past. Everyone needs to get over it. I'm not 16, 14, 13 years old anymore. I'm playing in the big leagues, I'm 21 years old and I'm ready to go."
Harper expressed frustration with the way last season played out, not making the playoffs and spending much of the year dealing with left knee bursitis. He thinks people have lost sight of what he's accomplished in the majors so far.
"I could care less what people think. I could care less what anybody thinks. [Mike] Trout's very good, [Manny] Machado's really good, I've been to the NL East title. I won it. Nobody else can say that. None of those younger guys can say that at all."
Despite the success he's already had, it's clear Harper is entering this season with a chip on his shoulder. He has one goal and that's to win a World Series with the Nationals.
"After winning a title like that, it's a lot of fun. But I think the biggest thing is, I want a World Series. I want rings," he said.
On a team that added Doug Fister, Jerry Blevins, Nate McLouth and Jose Lobaton this offseason, Harper likes the Nationals' chances in 2014.
"Hands down we're one of the best teams in baseball," he said. "If we play hard and work together as a team, pull on that same rope, we're gonna go far. We have the manager to do that and I think everyone's excited about that. I am definitely."
It's only a few days into spring training, but Harper's knee has not been an issue. He's feeling great and is already looking forward to Opening Day.
"I worked my tail off this offseason to get where I am now and it's just going to get better and better. I'm excited to get going this year and I'm really looking forward to it."