Bryce Harperarrived to spring training Wednesday with confidence befitting a defending World Series champion, saying he was "excited to get going this year and doing the things that I need to do to bring a title back to D.C. and hoist that trophy over the monuments."
Two months after getting a new $7.5 million contract that keeps him with theWashington Nationalsfor two more years, the 22-year-old appears to have reason to believe.
"It's absolutely stupid; we have the best staff in all of baseball," Harper told reporters at camp in Viera, Florida, of the Nationals' pitchers. "I don't care what nobody says, and the thing about our guys, they work. It's not like it's just, 'Hey, OK, let's just go out and play.' They work, and they work hard. And to add a guy like [Max] Scherzer who's a bulldog out there, who's unbelievable in the postseason, who shows that fire and that emotion, it's something that I'm going to enjoy watching this year.
"And I think our team in the outfield is going to do a lot of watching, because they're going to be carving it up."
Scherzer, the 2013 Cy Young Award winner, who went 18-5 with a 3.15 ERA in a career-high 220 innings last season with the Detroit Tigers, will be replacing Tanner Roark in a rotation that also will featureStephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister and Gio Gonzalez. And the third-year veteran Roark was no slouch in 2014, when he went 15-10 with a 2.85 ERA.
But beyond the Nationals' top-to-bottom All-Star-caliber rotation, a slimmed-down physique has Harper hoping he can improve on an injury-interrupted season in which he batted .273 with 13 homers and 32 RBIs but thrived in a National League Division Series loss to the San Francisco Giants. Harper hit .368 with three homers and four RBIs in that four-game series.
"I was able to do the things I wanted to do when I was in high school and college," Harper said of his offseason fitness regimen. "Switching things up a little bit, more fast-paced workouts. I'm doing 1,000 reps workout in 45 minutes. Just trying to roll through it as quick as I can, doing the things I need to do to get a little leaner and do things like that, but my strength is still there, my power is still there, so I feel very good."
Harper is already a two-time NL All-Star and one of the Nationals' most popular and marketable players. He lost time in the first few months of last season after having surgery on a torn thumb ligament suffered when he slid into third base during a game April 25. Harper wasn't back in the lineup until June 30.
"I'm just excited that I can show off my arm a little more," Harper said. "I love to throw guys out. It's tough to do that from the left side of the field. You don't get that first-to-third, you don't get that second-to-home a lot depending on where you play unless it's in a corner or something like that.
"Playing right field, pitchers better watch out a little bit on that little ground ball to right field," Harper added, referring to his position switch to right field with the 35-year-oldJayson Werthgoing to left. "They better be hustling, because you know I'm coming with it."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
Bryce Harper eyes World Series ring
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