If anyone can relate to the handle-with-care treatment Bryce Harper received over the weekend in Chicago, it’s Barry Bonds, who knows a thing or two about being avoided as if he was a lit stick of dynamite.
The Marlins’ new hitting coach watched with equal parts amusement and empathy as the Cubs gave Harper the Bonds treatment, walking him a total of 13 times during the four-game series.
Harper even set a major-league record Sunday for most plate appearances without an at-bat when he walked six times and was hit by a pitch in his seven trips to the plate. Three times Harper was walked intentionally, with two of those coming with runners at first and second.
“It started somewhere,” Bonds said laughing. “It’s just continuing to another person.”
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Bonds was intentionally walked a major-league-record 688 times over the course of his career. Next on the all-time list: Albert Pujols at 297. Now Harper is discovering what that helpless feeling is like.
“He’s going to have to stay disciplined — a lot,” Bonds said of Harper, the National League’s reigning Most Valuable Player.
Bonds noted that Ryan Zimmerman, who hit behind Harper during the weekend series, had a tough weekend. Rather than have his pitchers face Harper, Cubs manager Joe Maddon decided to take his chances with Zimmerman.
And it paid off. Zimmerman went 2 for 19 and stranded 14 runners as the Cubs swept the series.
“They’re playing to win,” Bonds said of the Cubs’ strategy against Harper. “The same thing happened to me. The guy behind has got to hit, has got to do his job, basically. That’s what it comes down to.”
Bonds said when he was playing, the strategy was employed too frequently to count. And it didn’t always work.
“Plenty of times,” Bonds said. “They caught days sometimes when [Jeff] Kent wasn’t hitting. And they caught days when Kent bombed them. It can backfire on you. It’s the price you’re going to pay. They just got Zimmerman on a cold weekend. Doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to work all the time. They just got Zimmerman on a bad weekend. We’ve all had those.”
Nationals manager Dusty Baker decided Monday to keep Zimmerman in the cleanup spot behind Harper but left his options open.
“I’m not a fair-weather-type guy,” Baker told reporters. “I’m not a forever guy either.”
Bonds said it wouldn’t surprise him if Baker changed his lineup, though, especially if Zimmerman continues to struggle and opponents continue taking the bat out of Harper’s hands. Daniel Murphy, who began the day Monday with a .395 average, is one possibility to move into the cleanup spot.
But even Bonds arched an eyebrow when he was told Harper walked six times — a high number even by his own standard — in Sunday’s 13-inning game.
“I’ve been walked plenty of times — three times in a game, four times in a game,” Bonds said. “But six times, that’s a lot.”
Left-handed reliever Mike Dunn (strained forearm) is expected to throw a bullpen session on Tuesday. But the timetable for his return from the disabled list is up in the air.
Edwin Jackson is also working his way back from the DL. Jackson (right triceps strain) has already thrown two bullpens and will pitch a simulated game on Wednesday.
▪ Tuesday: Marlins LHP Adam Conley (2-1, 3.06 ERA) vs. Milwaukee Brewers RHP Zach Davies (0-3, 6.98), 7:10 p.m., Marlins Park.
▪ Wednesday: Marlins LHP Wei-Yin Chen (2-1, 4.66) vs. Milwaukee Brewers RHP Chase Anderson (1-4, 6.44), 7:10 p.m., Marlins Park.