Harper, Zimmermann having 'blast' as All-Stars
Outfielder getting second taste of experience, pitcher making first appearance
NEW YORK -- The 20-year-old kid acts like he's been here before, because he has. The 27-year-old veteran is a little more wide-eyed.
Bryce Harper and Jordan Zimmermann have this in common, however: there's no place that either Nationals All-Star would rather be this week. Harper, an All-Star for the second time in as many years, and Zimmermann, a first-timer, make up the 2013 Midsummer Classic contingent for the Nats.
There could have been more, but these two will enjoy the experience while they're here.
"Bryce is very well deserving, and I thought [Ian Desmond] had a good chance of making it," Zimmermann said. "[Stephen Strasburg] had a great first half, and Gio [Gonzalez] as well. He's got, I think, a 3 ERA and been pitching great of late. We could have a lot more guys here."
Zimmermann won't pitch, but Harper will definitely appear for the National League. He's in the starting lineup, voted in by fans. The second-year slugger will bat ninth -- a bit of an unfamiliar spot, though he's unfazed by it.
"It's just another leadoff, I guess," Harper said. "I'm just trying to have fun. There's so much talent in this whole game. Hopefully I'm not pitching tomorrow -- in the nine-hole, I hope I'm not pitching. It's going to be a lot of fun."
The 2013 All-Star Game will be played at Citi Field on Tuesday. Come to MLB.com for extensive online coverage of the All-Star Week festivities.
The final phase of All-Star Game voting will again have fans participating in the official voting for the Ted Williams All-Star Game Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet. During the Midsummer Classic, fans will vote exclusively online at MLB.com via the 2013 All-Star Game MLB.com MVP Vote, and their voice will represent 20 percent of the official vote determining the recipient of the Arch Ward Trophy.
The 84th All-Star Game will be televised nationally (8 p.m. ET) by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 200 countries via MLB International's independent feed. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB Network and SiriusXM also will also provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information, please visit allstargame.com.
For both Harper and Zimmermann, not to mention the Washington team, it's been a bit of a difficult ride to the All-Star break. The pair are assuredly deserving All-Stars, but each has dealt with injury issues during the first half.
Harper missed five weeks due to a knee injury, but was still voted in as a starter. He's hitting .264 on the year, with a .371 on-base percentage, a .522 slugging percentage, 13 home runs, 29 RBIs and 38 runs scored.
He's having a better year in most respects than he did in 2012, though he's understandably a bit less of a media magnet than he was then. Last year, Harper and fellow rookie Mike Trout were the biggest stories in Kansas City. This year, Harper finds himself slightly less hounded. Not that he's noticed.
"I have no pressure on me," he said. "I have no hype. I try to go out there and play the game I know how to play, and I let people talk about whatever they want to talk about. I try to just go out there and have fun and respect the game as much as I can, and good things will happen."
Zimmermann stayed healthy for the season's first three months, but has come down with neck discomfort that will keep him from pitching on Tuesday. If not for that, he might have at least been in the conversation to start the game. He has a league-leading 12 wins, a 2.58 ERA, and 95 strikeouts against 18 walks in 132 1/3 innings.
Instead, Zimmermann will watch. But he said there was no doubt about whether to make the trip, even once he knew he wouldn't be pitching.
"It means a lot [to be chosen]," he said. "I've always wanted to have a chance to come up here. ... I'm just getting good run support and a lot more wins this year. I'm happy to be here."
So is Harper, who made it clear that no matter how many times he's chosen, he'll relish the chance.
"I always take it in," he said. "Why wouldn't you? Your first All-Star Game, your second All-Star Game, it's a lot of fun. You're playing a game for a living. There's nothing else I would want to do. So it's just a lot of fun. It's a blast. I look forward to playing every single day."
Matthew Leach is a writer for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.