(Busch Stadium) Even though the St. Louis Cardinals and Washington Nationals don’t face each other except for two regular season series per year, seeing Michael Wacha on the mound will be a familiar site for Bryce Harper.
The Nationals slugger actually was behind the plate and caught for Wacha years ago in some select youth showcases.
“Definitely remember Michael when he was younger,” said Harper before today’s game. “He was really, really good. Big time arm. Being able to see what he did in high school and go into college over at Texas A&M and do his job, it’s a lot of fun to see guys that you played with growing up.”
Only a 16-year old, Harper had already graced the cover of Sports Illustrated and was hitting 500ft home runs. But he remembers Michael Wacha had a good changeup, even then.
“I don’t know if it’s as good as it is now,” said Harper. “That’s one of the most devastating pitches in the game. For a guy like him, he pitches off that cutter. Throws that changeup really, really well. Has that 97-98 when he needs it. He’s a lot of fun to watch, not very fun to face but one of the better guys to watch on a Sunday night.”
Entering tonight’s game, Harper is batting .250 (3-12) with an RBI and 3 strikeouts against Wacha. With the long relationship, is there an added rivalry when they match-up? A running total of who’s gotten the best of who in their showdowns?
“Not really, I don’t care who I face–who I hit a homer off of or who I don’t, who strikes me out or who doesn’t,” said Harper. “It’s part of the game. Sometimes you’re going to 0-4 with four punch outs, some times you’re going to go 4-4 with a jack and a double. He’s one of the best young arms in baseball, I’ve always said that.”
Currently leading the National League in assists from right field, Harper doesn’t miss his days behind the plate.
“Not really, I enjoy playing outfield,” he said. “I enjoy running around out there. Catching’s so hard on the body. Of course, you miss the relationships with the umpire, the relationship with the pitchers but I don’t miss it for my body’s sake.”
photo credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports, Bill Greenblatt/UPI