Prodigious Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper sent a text message to manager Davey Johnson in which he implored to be put into the starting lineup. It was a rather bold statement by the 20-year-old star, as he told Johnson, "Play me or trade me."
The text, which was sent on Friday evening ahead of Saturday's contest against the San Diego Padres, was confirmed by CSN Washington's Mark Zuckerman:
Johnson wasn't about to go to the Washington brass to discuss a trade, so he had no choice but to grant Harper's wishes.
It makes sense that the Nationals are being extra cautious with a player of Harper's caliber and potential, though. After all, Harper had only one hit in the five games since he returned to the lineup from a knee injury.
As CBS Sports' Mike Axisa reports, the club intended to give Harper the weekend off to ease him back into the lineup. Harper had tried to play through the injury previously and was unable to, resulting in a trip to the disabled list.
However, Harper was clearly having none of it—and perhaps the Nationals should be thankful for his insistence on playing.
In the game against the Padres on Saturday, Harper made good on his assertion that his health wasn't bothering him enough to sit by accumulating three RBI in the team's 5-4 victory over San Diego.
After the game, as documented by Zuckerman, it was apparent that Harper—at least publicly—was sticking to his principles, stating that he wasn't exactly exaggerating or kidding in his text to Johnson:
I was pretty serious about what I said. I want to play. I want to play every single day. I think if he wants to put me in the lineup, then I want to be in the lineup. If he doesn't, I'm going to try to make him put me in the lineup.
In any event, Johnson's decision to call Harper's number resulted in a victory for the team, as the Nationals improved to 45-42 in 2013—five games behind the National League East division-leading Atlanta Braves as the All-Star break approaches.
Speaking of which, Harper was named as a starter for the NL in the July 16 Midsummer Classic at New York's Citi Field, as was revealed on a Fox TV broadcast.
Despite ongoing injury issues and a lackluster .263 batting average, the fans voted him into the game.