WASHINGTON -- Nationals left fielder Bryce Harper has endured a slow start to the season, and the 21-year-old is taking his struggles hard.
"I feel terrible," he said after an 0-for-4 game on Saturday against the Braves. "Plain and simple."
Harper stormed out of the starting blocks last season, homering twice on Opening Day and collecting multiple hits in seven of his first nine games. He's now opened 2014 in a 3-for-21 skid, with no extra-base hits and 10 strikeouts.
"I'm pretty lost right now," Harper said.
Harper's frustrations have manifested themselves in some emotional outbursts. In Friday's home opener, he slammed his helmet to the ground after a strikeout. After striking out again in his final at-bat on Saturday, he returned to the dugout and threw both his helmet and bat down the tunnel that leads to the team's clubhouse.
Manager Matt Williams said he's not concerned that Harper is getting too worked up, but he is considering not starting him in Sunday afternoon's series finale. With an off-day on Monday, that would give Harper two days to gather himself before the Marlins come to Washington on Tuesday.
"Everybody wants to compete, whether it's Game 1 or Game 162 or beyond," Williams said. "Bryce's frustration in the last at-bat [Saturday night] is he swung at a bad ball. At some point, there's that tipping point where frustration shows itself. It's often good to let it out, too. You can go out there and act like it's not bothering you, but it bothers everybody, so sometimes it's good to let it out. So we'll evaluate that tonight and talk about it and see what we can do tomorrow."
First baseman Adam LaRoche, a mild-mannered 11-year veteran, said that Harper's emotion can help, but also hurt.
"Some of that motivates Bryce," LaRoche said. "When he goes through some of that, he does wear it on his sleeve, but a lot of times, that's his way of getting it off his chest and being done with it. Instead of keeping his frustration in, he chooses to air it out once in a while and be done with it.
"Again, he's young. He'll learn that those 0-for-4s can turn into a lot worse if you carry them into the next day. He'll be fine, and we've all talked to him. It's kind of part of the growing pains of figuring it all out on his own."
Harper clearly has no intention of taking his foot off the gas pedal as he tries to escape the slump. He said he's still trying to find his swing and intends to watch video in order to see where he's putting his hands. He also plans to call his father, Ron, for advice.
After speaking to reporters, Harper changed from his uniform into workout attire, grabbed a bat and appeared to be heading off the batting cages to take some more cuts.