SAN FRANCISCO — Bryce Harper‘s suspension for his role in Monday’s benches-clearing incident has been reduced from four games to three, the Natonals announced on Wednesday. Harper will begin serving his suspension in Wednesday night’s series finale against the Giants and will be eligible to return for Sunday’s game against the A’s.
Harper was initially handed a four-game penalty from MLB on Tuesday for charging the mound and throwing his helmet past Strickland after being hit on the hip with a 98-mph fastball. Harper said he immediately knew it was a purpose pitch, and although Strickland denied its intent, the only history between the two players was during the 2014 National League Division Series when Harper hit a pair of home runs against him. Harper and Strickland, who was suspended six games and is also appealing, exchanged blows and had to be separated as both benches cleared. The two were also both fined an undisclosed amount.
A day later, Harper was still shocked at the way everything played out, but he didn’t share any reaction as to whether he believed the length of either suspension was justified.
“It’s just crazy that it even happened,” Harper said before Tuesday’s 6-3 win over San Francisco. “After three years, to do that, I don’t know what was going through his mind or how upset he was the last couple years. If he did have a problem, he could’ve talked to me in [batting practice] about it and say, ‘I didn’t like the way you went about it.'”
The suspension leaves the Nationals without Harper, who might be able to use the days off to work on his swing. He has just six hits in his last 45 at-bats over the past 12 games and his average has dropped 66 points during that span. Still, overall he is off to an excellent start to the season, with a .433 on-base percentage and 1.076 OPS, and his 15 home runs are tied for the NL lead.