7/2/2014 10:22 P.M. ET
Williams looks to put Harper's comments in the past
By Daniel Popper / MLB.com
WASHINGTON -- Nationals manager Matt Williams did his best Wednesday to eliminate any perceived tension in his clubhouse regarding Bryce Harper's comments about the lineup.
Before returning to the field Monday night after missing more than two months with a torn left thumb ligament, Harper addressed the media and displayed some dissatisfaction with Williams' decision to hit the 21-year-old slugger sixth in the batting order.
Harper also disagreed with where individuals were playing in the field, stating that Ryan Zimmerman playing left field, Danny Espinosa playing second and Anthony Rendon playing third "should be what's happening." Harper's proposed lineup would have presumably moved him to center field in place of Denard Span.
Instead, Williams played Rendon at second, Zimmerman at third and Harper in left field for both Monday and Tuesday, with Span retaining his starting job in center field. And on Wednesday, the rookie manager proposed that Harper's comments were taken out of context.
"What was the question asked?" Williams said. "And how did he respond to that particular question? We don't often hear the question. We just get the response. So with regard to scrutiny regarding the lineup, that's on me. I make the lineup. And that's all that Bryce said: 'He makes the lineup. I'll play left field or I'll play center or I'll play wherever he wants me to and I'll hit wherever he wants me to.' I think that's the proper response. And I don't think he had anything different. He said 'If I have the pen, it may be different.' That's perfectly fine. It's perfectly fine. That doesn't mean he disagrees with the way I'm doing things or has some issue with me. What it means is that, yeah, if I was him, I would want to hit third or fourth too. Who wouldn't?"
In reality, the question that prompted Harper's response asked how appreciative Harper was of Zimmerman's unwavering willingness to move from position to position. After his return on June 3, Zimmerman started 25 games in left field -- a brand new position for him. He since returned to third base even though he made clear on multiple occasions he'd prefer to stay in left.
Nonetheless, Williams said Harper's place in the order is a temporary situation as the outfielder continues to improve after the injury that sidelined him for 57 games.
"I will tell you this, it would be beneficial, I think, for everybody to just see how it plays because I don't anticipate Bryce Harper hitting sixth the rest of the year," Williams said. "There's a number of reasons for it, but first and foremost is he's just coming back from injury. So does he hit two for us? Yeah. Does he hit three for us? Yeah. Does he hit four? Yeah. Maybe not today, but he will. And it will be this year."
Williams cautioned reporters who make the assumption that Harper was calling out Span with his remarks on the lineup. But most importantly, the manager said he's ready to put the ordeal in the past.
"That's where we're at right now. He's good. I'm good," Williams said. "He wants to play. He wants to win. I want to write his name in the lineup every day. His teammates are there to support him. He's there to support his teammates. And we're going to move on."
Nats agree to terms with five international prospects
WASHINGTON -- According to MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez, the Nationals signed 6-foot-3, 185-pound outfielder Yoel Andujar of San Cristobal, Dominican Republic for $300,000 on Wednesday.
The Nationals also agreed to terms with four additional international free agents on Wednesday, according to a joint announcement made by President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo and Director Of International Scouting Johnny DiPuglia. Those players include shortstops Bryan Bencosme and Adanlis Martinez and outfielders Juan Evangelista and Brailin Mesa.
Bencosme is a 6-foot-1, 175-pound native of the Dominican Republic. Martinez is a 6-foot-2, 170-pound native of the Dominican Republic with sound defense and athletic ability. Mesa is a 6-foot-3, 185-pound native of the Dominican Republic who projects as a corner outfielder. And Evangelista is 5-foot-11, 165 pounds, and projects as a center fielder.
All five players are 16 years old.
Rendon, LaRoche continue to build All-Star case
WASHINGTON -- Nationals second baseman Anthony Rendon and first baseman Adam LaRoche continue to build their resumes as contenders for the 2014 National League All-Star team.
Entering Wednesday's action, LaRoche is among the league leaders in batting average, on-base percentage and walks. Meanwhile, Rendon's 12 home runs and 48 RBIs are two of the top totals in all of baseball for second basemen.
"I'm excited for those guys," catcher Wilson Ramos said. "They've had a really good season. I get excited when somebody on this team makes the All-Star Game. Every player wants to do it. I want to one day be in the All-Star Game, but I have to play hard. Those guys play hard and now they may make the All-Star team. I'm excited for that."
Fans can cast their votes for starters at MLB.com -- online or on a mobile device -- using the 2014 All-Star Game MLB.com Ballot Sponsored by Experian until Thursday, July 3, at 11:59 p.m. ET. The 2014 All-Star Game will be played at Target Field on Tuesday, July 15 on FOX.
Espinosa out of starting lineup again
WASHINGTON -- After Tuesday night's game, Nationals manager Matt Williams mentioned he would try to get Danny Espinosa in Wednesday's lineup.
Williams said Wednesday that was because he had "question marks" about the health of some of his infielders following the Nationals' 7-1 win over the Rockies on Tuesday, though he wouldn't disclose which players. Nonetheless, Espinosa remained on the bench Wednesday, as the infielders in question returned to Nationals Park feeling better.
"It's nothing against Danny," Williams said Wednesday. "Nothing against with regard to him in any form or fashion. It was just a question last night of whether guys would be able to post today. But everybody's good."
The Nationals faced off against Colorado left-hander Tyler Matzek Wednesday. And while Espinosa sports a .277 batting average against lefties on the season, Williams still opted to go with same lineup as Monday and Tuesday -- albeit with Jose Lobaton catching and batting eighth instead of Wilson Ramos -- because of the 14-run outburst the group put together during the first two games of the series.
"We want to make sure that we get him some action in there," Williams said of Espinosa. "But it's hard to argue. It's hard to argue with the last two days."
Daniel Popper is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.