WASHINGTON -- Before Bryce Harper stepped onto the field Monday night to play in his first Major League game since April 25, the 21-year-old slugger offered his opinion on the lineup that Nationals manager Matt Williams had assembled against the Rockies.
Williams had Ryan Zimmerman back at third base, despite his earlier comments that he's more comfortable in left, and Harper in left. Anthony Rendon went back to second, and Danny Espinosa was on the bench.
"Rendon is a great third baseman and should be playing third, and we have one of the best [defensive] second basemen in Danny Espinosa," Harper said Monday. "Of course, you want the best-hitting lineup in there. I think Rendon playing third and Zim playing left is something that would be good for this team."
Harper's proposed lineup would presumably move himself to center field and Denard Span to the bench.
"If I had the lineup, it would maybe not be the same. He's got the lineup card. He's got the pen. That's what he's doing," Harper said, referring to Williams. "So there's nothing I can do about it."
Williams said he had a productive conversation with Harper regarding the comments, and he gave the young outfielder his full support.
"I've got to let you guys know something: I've got Bryce's back in every way," Williams said. "That will not change. I want him play every day, and I want him to play the way Bryce knows how to play. And he's going to hit in different spots in the lineup, and he's okay with that. And he's going to play in different spots in the outfield, and he's okay with that, too ... He and I are good. There's no rift."
Batting sixth Monday night, Harper went 1-for-3 with an RBI in the Nationals' 7-3 victory. Williams opted for the same lineup on Tuesday night, largely because of the success the team had offensively in the series opener.
Barrett called for unexpected balk
WASHINGTON -- For more than three years, Nationals reliever Aaron Barrett has pitched using the exact same routine, which includes a unique hitch before he comes to the set.
Barrett developed the delivery in 2011 while playing for short-season Class A Auburn, and he said there was initial discussion among coaches that it could be a potential issue. But Barrett said he worked to guarantee the motion was continuous every time, and in three and a half seasons in the Minor and Major Leagues, he was only charged with one balk.
That changed Monday night against the Rockies. In the top of the eighth inning while Barrett was pitching to Justin Morneau, home plate-umpire Joe West called a balk, citing the right-hander's funky motion. The call allowed Troy Tulowitzki to advance to second base.
"The only thing [West] told [catcher Wilson] Ramos and skip [Matt Williams] was that just I wasn't allowed to do that," Barrett said. "I wasn't allowed to do whatever I did."
Despite an argument from Williams, West upheld his call. Barrett was forced to change his motion in the middle of the inning, removing the hitch from his routine. Barrett ultimately gave up one run in the inning on a wild pitch and limited the damage. Nonetheless, it was a stressful experience for the rookie.
"It was hard. Instead of doing the motion I've always done, I had to basically come set," Barrett said. "It completely broke up my rhythm. … So it was definitely frustrating and difficult."
Frandsen, Nats tuning in to World Cup
WASHINGTON -- Nationals infielder Kevin Frandsen had a United States men's soccer jersey hung up outside his locker in the clubhouse Tuesday afternoon just minutes before the Americans took on Belgium in the World Cup Round of 16 in Brazil.
Frandsen is a staunch supporter of the national team. He watched all three group-play games against Ghana, Portugal and Germany, as well as a number of friendlies the United States played in the leadup to the global tournament.
"I enjoy soccer," Frandsen said. "I'm probably in a minority here in the baseball world that enjoys it. But the World Cup is awesome, because it's just like the Olympics, where it's a pride thing. It's a country pride thing. Everyone gets behind it."
Nationals Park broadcasted the game against Belgium on the jumbotron in right-center field, giving fans who arrived early the opportunity to watch. As for Frandsen, he said he only checked the score periodically during batting practice, because his focus was on the Nationals' contest against the Rockies.
The U.S. fell to Belgium in extra time, 2-1.
• Class-A Hagerstown right-hander Lucas Giolito was named the South Atlantic League's Pitcher of Week Monday for June 23-29. Giolito made one start during the span, surrendering three hits and striking out nine over six scoreless innings on Thursday against Lexington. Giolito is 3-2 with a 2.30 ERA in 12 starts this season.