by Chris 'Blue Shorts' Lingebach

WASHINGTON (CBSDC) – Nationals manager Matt Williams thinks Bryce Harper is primed to “take that next step” in becoming a superstar entering his third season in Major League Baseball.

The Junkies caught up with Williams in Viera, Fla. on Friday, and the first-year manager gave them his assessment of Harper’s development, and divulged a few of the tips he plans to use to keep the Nationals on the path to success in 2014.

“I think that [Harper’s] on the verge of taking the final step that he needs to take,” Williams said of Harper. “He’s becoming a leader in his own right.”

“I think he’s ready to take that step,” he’d go on to reinforce.

As for Bryce’s massive weight gain, Williams suggest fear not; it’s all just by design.

“He loses a lot of weight during the season playing every day, so he came into spring ready to go,” he said.

“I don’t know exactly where he’ll hit on any given day in the lineup, Williams said. “He may move around a little bit depending on who we’re facing, and things like that, but I think he’s ready to take that step.”

There was more on how Harper fits into the lineup, with particular regard to how Williams will move him around to better the young lefties odds against left-handed pitching, something he struggled with at times in 2013.

“We want to put him within a position within our lineup, that he’s able to feast on those guys when he gets a chance to,” he said. “As an example, if he’s hitting between two big right-handed hitters, they’re gonna pitch to Bryce when they can with a lefty. So we hope to provide him those opportunities where there’s guys all over the bases for him to feast a little bit.”

So far in limited at-bats in spring training, Harper, as Williams noted, has hit in the two, three and five slots in the lineup, but the decision has not been made as to which of the three, if any, Harper will take the bulk of his at-bats from this season.

When it comes to managing the team, and a 25-man active roster for the first time, Williams is, unsurprisingly if you’ve read anything about him, meticulously prepared and has a plan. One of the main challenges in doing so (in a modern MLB in which guys like Cal Ripken, Jr. don’t exist), is deciding how to distribute time off.

Williams is prepared for that too, or at least, he has a plan.

“I think the key for [Harper], and the key for Jason, and Zimm and Desi, and everybody within the starting lineup, is to give them regular days off whether they like it or not,” Williams said.

“The sticky part comes when the manager is trying to win the game, and you’ve lost 3 of 4, and Wilson Ramos has a scheduled day off, and you just gotta eat it,” he said. “You just gotta say ‘this is your day off. It’s better for the long run, that you get today off,’ and not be necessarily worried about that 3-out-of-4 you just lost.”

All that out-of-the-way, look how weird EB’s left elbow looks in the photo at the bottom of the page.

More of the Junkies from Spring Training:

Nationals manager Matt Williams speaks with the Junkies on 106.7 The Fan, in Viera, Fla. on March 7, 2014. (Credit: @Ewadd1067)

Nationals manager Matt Williams speaks with the Junkies on 106.7 The Fan, in Viera, Fla. on March 7, 2014. (Credit: @Ewadd1067)


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