WASHINGTON — Bryce Harper hit the ball to the mound, jogged to first base and took a right turn to the dugout before getting halfway down the basepath.
That would be his final play in the Washington Nationals’ 4-3 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday.
First-year manager Matt Williams will tolerate physical miscues, such as the error that provided St. Louis three unearned runs, but he won’t take the nonchalance that the normally aggressive Harper displayed during his sixth-inning jog.
"Lack of hustle. That’s why he came out of the game," Williams said. "He and I made an agreement, this team made an agreement, that when we play the game, that we hustle at all times."
Now in his third season, the 21-year-old Harper is one of Washington’s brightest lights and already a two-time All-Star. The outfielder once ran into a wall in the relentless pursuit of a fly ball, but on this day Harper was left explaining his casual approach on a comebacker.
"I respect what he did," Harper said of Williams’ decision. "That’s part of the game."
Harper was replaced by Kevin Frandsen, who entered as Washington’s left fielder in the seventh and assumed Harper’s position as the second batter in the lineup.
"You know, it’s in the past and there’s nothing we can do about it now," said Harper.
— The Associated Press