The Washington Nationals raised some eyebrows on Thursday in the MLB when they inserted 19-year-old Bryce Harper into the No 3 spot in their batting order. Not these.
Yes, Harper was only five games into his major league career. Yes, the No 3 spot is the most demanding in the batting line-up, requiring a hitter to somehow be both patient and aggressive, and it is usually a sign that this person is the team's best hitter.
But Harper, the No 1 overall pick in the 2010 draft, has not been fazed in his first week in the major leagues, hitting .385 (five-for-13) with three doubles and two RBIs in his first four games.
And frankly Davey Johnson, the manager, did not have many options. The veteran middle order hitters Ryan Zimmerman and Michael Morse are on the disabled list. And the Nationals had only scored seven runs in their previous five games - all losses.
If Johnson needed some confirmation, he could just look south in the National League East. The Atlanta Braves third baseman Chipper Jones, the No 1 overall pick in the 1990 draft, started hitting third in the Braves order in the first game of the 1995 season his rookie year. Granted he was 23, but the expectations placed on him were comparable to Harper.
Jones hit .270 that year with 23 home runs and 84 RBIs, finished runner-up for NL rookie of the year and the Braves won their first World Series, in part because Bobby Cox, their manager, was not afraid to put responsibility on the shoulders of a young but talented player.
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