WASHINGTON — The Nationals have made plenty of offseason moves to reshape their bullpen. Moving closer Jonathan Papelbon wasn’t one of them.
2015 ended early for Papelbon after he choked National League MVP Bryce Harper in the Nationals dugout, for which the Nats suspended Papelbon four games coinciding with an earlier three-game suspension from Major League Baseball to end his season.
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Harper and Nationals GM Mike Rizzo have done their best to leave the issue in the past.
“I just think what I need out of him and what he needs out of all of us is for us to be a family, and it’s something that if he goes out there and saves 55 games a year, then we’re going to win a World Series,” Harper said during an interview with 106.7 The Fan’s Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier.
“That’s something that we all look forward to, that’s something that we need to make happen and we’re excited,” he said. “That was squashed that day. I think everybody made such a big deal of that and too much a bid deal of that. It’s all in the past. We haven’t even brought it up since that day.
“We’re looking forward to this year, like I said, you know, I want him to go out there and save 60 games, try to win a Cy Young and do everything he can to help this team win, and likewise I’m going to try to do everything I can to help this team win as well. It takes 25 guys, not just one. As a team we’re going to go out there and do everything we can to build on what we can in spring training and do everything we can to bring something back to D.C.”
Coming off a historic season in which he played 153 games — following two seasons in which he’d missed a combined 106 games — Harper is most thankful he was able to stay healthy: “Just being able to stay healthy and be able to play 155 games or whatever I played. Being able to do that and just be good with my approach and stay with my approach, stay within myself and just do everything I needed to do to help my team win on a daily basis, that’s huge as well.”
“You can never be satisfied with what you do and I’m just looking forward to this year,” he added.
Harper was asked what new manager Dusty Baker can bring which may have been missing in the clubhouse.
“I mean just the attitude, just the charisma that he has, being able to walk into a clubhouse and we all have the respect for him and he has the right respect for his players,” Harper said. “I’m just very excited to get going, very excited to learn from him, learn from Davey Lopez, and Maddux as well with the pitchers, and just looking forward to the team that we have and the camaraderie with guys that we have, the family that we have in the clubhouse and just looking forward to it.”
A Dallas Cowboys fan, Harper was also asked about wearing a Redskins hat to the Super Bowl.
“I’m a big fan of what Kirk Cousins did this year. I think he did a great job,” he said. “The way the Redskins went about it this year, they did such a great job this year and I was very thrilled, very excited for them. Any time I can be part of the D.C. family, I think that’s huge. If that’s the Caps, if that’s the Wizards, or the Spirit, or anybody that’s playing out there. It’s part of what happens when you play in cities like that with great fanbases and it’s a lot of fun to be part of.”