MIAMI — Good news: Bryce Harper likes playing in New York.
But . . .
Answer to a question from a Chicago reporter: Harper likes playing there, too.
Los Angeles? Yep, has always enjoyed the trip.
Oh, and the Nationals outfielder also has an affinity for the only home he’s known as a major-leaguer, D.C.
Still nearly two years away from what is anticipated to be perhaps the most scrutinized free agency in any sport since LeBron James’, Harper already is fielding a remarkable number of questions about it.
And, truth be told, the 24-year-old doesn’t mind.
“I think it’s fun,” Harper said Monday. “I think it’s fun for fans, I think it’s fun for baseball. I think it’s part of the world that we live in and the way people want to know and always have an opinion about it. I think everybody’s going to have an opinion about it the next year and a half, two years.”
Many assume the Yankees will end up with Harper — although it’s always useful to remind those doing the assuming that managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner isn’t his father when it comes to such things — but the rightfielder wasn’t providing any clues.
“I’ve always said I enjoy playing in D.C., I love the city of D.C.,” Harper said. “I love driving to Nats Park. I don’t like 395, but I don’t think anybody does. Being able to go to Nats Park every single day, have the team that we do, the respect I have for the Lerner family [owners] and [general manager] Mike Rizzo is above and beyond. The young guys that we have, we have a great club. So I’m looking forward to what we can do this year and go from there.”
Squeezed by the juiced ball?
Despite the growing suspicion about a supercharged baseball this season, a number of All-Star pitchers didn’t cry about it Monday during the workout news conference.
The Tigers’ Michael Fulmer, traded by the Mets in 2015 in the Yoenis Cespedes deal, expressed what many are feeling. The baseball is different, but they just have to deal with it.
“There’s always a reason why the ball gets out of the yard,” said Fulmer, whose HR/9 innings ratio actually is down to 0.5 from 0.9 last year. “I feel like with pitchers, the average velocity has gone up as well. It goes both ways and I don’t pay any attention to that [talk]. I try to throw strikes and get ground balls.”
Indians reliever Andrew Miller also believes he’s better off not sweating the baseball’s makeup this year.
“In reality, you’re compared to your peers, and we’re all pitching the same ball,” the former Yankee said. “The job is to score more runs than the other team, or in my case, allow less runs than the other team. I’ve got bigger problems. I’ve got to figure out how to get the Aaron Judges of the world out.”
With the upcoming festivities at Marlins Park, flying to Miami was something every All-Star had to do Sunday.
But in a plane co-piloted by Red Sox centerfielder Mookie Betts? Only Chris Archer did that, accepting Betts’ invitation to hop in his five-seater for the short hop from Tampa after the Rays beat the Sox, 5-3, at Tropicana Field. Archer posted Instagram photos of Betts at the controls and continued to marvel at Betts, who homered against him Sunday.
“He told me he’s good at video games, so I trusted him,” Archer said Monday. “He’s good at everything. He can do a Rubik’s Cube, he’s a 300 bowler. He hit a homer off me, then flew me to Miami in a jet.”