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Bryce Harper benched for 'lack of hustle' despite quad injury

By Mike Axisa | Baseball Writer

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Nationals wunderkind Bryce Harper was pulled from Saturday's game and benched for a "lack of hustle," manager Matt Williams told reporters. Harper grounded out back to pitcher leading off the sixth inning but did not run hard down to first base. Here's the play:

Yeesh, tough call by Williams. He's clearly using Harper to set an example for the rest of the team. I don't think any player would run out that ball hard.

Ironically, Harper usually plays extremely hard, often to his detriment. He tends to run into walls and stuff like that. In fact, here is what Williams said about his young outfielder after being hired over the winter (Washington Post):

“I love the way he plays the game,” Williams said. “He plays the game the way it should be played. He is all-out, every day, all the time, every game. He's paid for it by getting injured and running into walls. The greatest compliment I have heard is Mr. Lerner, the night he ran into the wall in L.A., asked how the wall was. Everybody loves that about him. Now can we be a little smarter sometimes? Sure. And not necessarily run into that wall? Of course. The kid's 21 years old: let him go. This is a stallion. This is a guy that is ready to just explode. We're going to try to give him the game plan to do that.”

And to top it all off, Harper has been nursing a tight quad in recent days. If there was ever a good reason to not run out an innocent little tapper back to pitcher, you'd think that would be it. I guess Williams disagrees.

Harper, 21, is hitting .295/.348/.426 with one home run on the season after going 0-for-3 on Saturday. He was replaced by Kevin Frandsen, who grounded out to third with the tying run in scoring position in the ninth inning. The Nationals lost to the Cardinals 4-3.

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