Boston Red Sox: Bryce Harper

Pedroia digs Harper's 'clown' comeback

June, 13, 2012
MIAMI -- Dustin Pedroia didn't need reporters to ask him about the latest viral craze in baseball. He broached the subject himself.

Before Wednesday's game against the Miami Marlins, the Boston Red Sox second baseman asked if anyone had heard about Washington Nationals rookie Bryce Harper's retort to a Toronto reporter.

Harper, who hit a long homer Tuesday night against the Blue Jays, was asked by a Toronto reporter if he planned to take advantage of Ontario’s legal drinking age of 19, and what his favorite brand of beer is. Harper, who is 19, must wait two years to legally consume alcohol in the United States. His Mormon faith would prohibit that, anyway.

A Nationals PR staffer suggested the reporter try a different question, but Harper was ready.

"I'm not answering that," he said. "That's a clown question, bro." Wednesday morning, Twitter was buzzing over Harper's comeback, with T-shirts already for sale.

Pedroia said he knew the identity of the reporter who asked the question and said he planned to "blow him up" when the Red Sox visit Toronto for three games beginning Sept. 14.

In Pedroia's opinion, Harper handled himself well in shooting down the reporter.

"Poor kid," Pedroia said of Harper. "I would have said [expletive] you, I'm 19."

Rapid Reaction: Nationals 7, Red Sox 4

June, 8, 2012

BOSTON -- And then there are those very rare, very special nights when even the hype machine fails to give its subjects their proper due.

That noted poet, Robert Valentine, came closer than most before Friday’s game. He was speaking of Stephen Strasburg, but he could just as easily have been speaking about Bryce Harper, the younger of the Washington Nationals' two prodigies.

“He is like looking at a rainbow,’’ Valentine said even before the Nats beat his Red Sox, 7-4. “You don't miss it; it is rather a beautiful sight.’’

If Strasburg (7-1) is the rainbow, then Harper is the Transit of Venus, a phenomenon visible to the eye, oh, once a century or so.

Friday night in Fenway Park, Strasburg, featuring a fastball that touched 100, a changeup that violated the laws of nature and a curveball bereft of compassion, struck out 13 Sox batters in six innings, including seven in a span of eight batters.

Strasburg is 23. No pitcher has whiffed 13 Sox hitters in Fenway Park since Mike Mussina K’d 13 on Sept. 2, 2001, the night that Carl Everett broke up a perfecto with two outs in the ninth.

No pitcher has whiffed more since Mussina K’d 15 on Sept. 4, 2000. Only seven pitchers since 1990 have K’d 13 or more Sox batters, with Roger Clemens also doing it twice.

“He gets that pitching thing very well,’’ Valentine said, resorting to more plain-spoken language.

And yet, Strasburg may have finished second in the category of wondrous feats to Harper, who Friday night at 19 years and 236 days old joined the most exclusive of company when he had three hits, including a home run to the right of the 420-foot triangle.

Here is a list of teenagers who have hit home runs at Fenway Park as visiting players: Robin Yount, Mickey Mantle, Al Kaline.

All three are Hall of Famers.

And here are the teenagers who have had three hits in a game at Fenway in the last 72 years:

Kaline, 18. And Ken Griffey Jr., 19.

Pretty special company.

Harper doubled and scored in the third, then connected for a two-run homer in the fourth off loser Felix Doubront (6-3) before singling in the fifth off Rich Hill. With a chance for the cycle, he grounded out in the ninth against Andrew Miller.

Podcast: Bobby V talks Bard, Crawford

June, 8, 2012
Bobby Valentine joined ESPN NY 98.7 FM's Michael Kay Show for his weekly appearance Friday and weighed in on a number of topics.

• On Daniel Bard's demotion to Triple-A Pawtucket:

"His last outing he threw 5 strikes in about 33 pitches, and he seemed to be outside of himself. There was a general consensus that he needed to pitch, but ... with his inability to throw the ball over the plate, it didn't seem like the major league mound was the place he should be pitching."

Valentine said he agreed with Bard in thinking it was a mechanical rather than a mental issue, and said, "I think Daniel will get that stuff worked out and be back here ASAP."

• On injured Red Sox left fielder Carl Crawford:

Valentine said Crawford "played catch for the first time in a couple months" on Friday, but wouldn't pinpoint a specific target for a return.

"I'm trying not to put any dates on this thing. Today is the first time he's throwing since he hurt his elbow, which was hurt while he was rehabilitating his wrist. He's going to take it step by step, but he's really confident, so I doubt it's going to be a real long time if he stays on course.

"He looks good right now playing catch, how's that?"

• On 19-year-old Nationals rookie Bryce Harper:

Valentine says Harper is a "big-time player," complimenting his intensity as well as his hitting ability and strong throwing arm.

To listen to the full podcast, CLICK HERE.

Valentine also addresses the comments about Bard made by Terry Francona, who said Thursday he was "shocked" to learn of the demotion of Bard, whom Tito considered to be "on the cusp of being an All-Star."

To listen to the podcast of Francona's appearance on the Michael Kay Show -- he also discusses Daisuke Matsuzaka -- CLICK HERE.

Young meets old as Harper hits Fenway

June, 8, 2012
BOSTON -- During the 100th anniversary season of Fenway Park, the schedule makers were kind enough to send in two of the brightest young stars baseball has seen in some time.

In addition to Washington Nationals pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg, who starts against the Red Sox on Friday, 19-year-old Bryce Harper will patrol center field and bat second for the Nats.

Harper, the No. 1 overall selection in the 2010 MLB draft, was recalled from Triple-A on April 28 and has made an immediate impact. Five tools? Harper seems to have an entire tool belt, playing at break-neck speed in the field and on the bases, while hitting .276 with 5 home runs and 14 RBIs.

While the attention of many teen-agers, particularly at this time of year, is anywhere but a history lesson, the moment of playing at Fenway is not lost on Harper.

"It's exciting to be here and to play here with the history and whatnot," he said. "It's very cool to come in here and play. I'm excited to see the fan base, I know they have great fans here.

"It's going to be fun to step into the same batter's box as Ted Williams did. It will be a great experience."

While in town, Harper will have a chance to catch up with Red Sox rookie Will Middlebrooks, who hasn't had the spectacle of Harper but has made a significant impact all the same. The two met up in the Arizona Fall League and hit it off pretty well, Harper said.

"He's an amazing talent," Harper said of Middlebrooks. "To see him make it up here pretty much the same week I did was pretty cool. It's a great experience. I texted him immediately to say congrats and keep it going.

"He's going to have a lot of fun playing here over the next couple of years. He absolutely can hit the cover off the ball so it's going to be fun to watch him play."

Middlebrooks, who said the two hope to have dinner together Saturday night, says he texts Harper every week or so "when I see on SportsCenter that he had a good game."

This is Harper's second visit to Fenway. He said he stopped by when he was 11 or 12 during a visit to Cooperstown to play in a tournament.

"It was great coming in here at that age and looking at the Monster thing and it's a hundred feet tall. It's very cool to now come in here and play in a place with all that history."

Asked if this visit brought back memories of his trip from his Little League days, Harper joked, "Well, that was only a couple of years ago."

Thing is, he's not too far off.