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Harper sets Nats walks record, will likely set many more

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Harper sets Nats walks record, will likely set many more

At the rate he is going, an MVP favorite at the age of 22, Bryce Harper is probably going to set a lot of records before his career is over.

He will likely break a bunch of Nationals team records, as they only have 11 seasons to pull from. Then, he will set his sights on franchise marks which include Expos greats such as Vladimir Guerrero, Andre Dawson and Tim Raines. And after that, perhaps some all-time MLB records, as well. After all, the guy is already doing things at his age that few in the long history of baseball have ever accomplished.

On Tuesday, Harper set a record that could be the first of many. He is now the sole owner of the Nationals single season walks record, previously held by Adam Dunn who walked 116 times in 2009. That was coincidentally the year the Nats finished in last place and earned the good fortune of taking Harper No. 1 overall the following summer.

Harper actually walked three times on Tuesday. His first inning walk tied the record and his fifth inning walk broke it. Then, for good measure, he walked again in the eighth inning. It was the eighth time in 143 games this season he has walked three times or more. He has drawn at least two walks in 24 games this year.

This particular performance came in a loss to the Orioles, another tough defeat in what will likely end up being a lost season for his team. Those usually aren't the best times to get a player to speak about their individual accomplishments, and Harper explained his walks in terms of continuing to fight for his team's playoff life.

"I'm just trying to have good at-bats. Just trying to get on base. I have faith in the guys behind me to get it done. If I can just get on base and hopefully score runs, then we're winning ballgames. I'm just trying to keep the faith, keep going and keep trying to just get on base for my guys. Just trying to score as many runs as I can," he said.

Manager Matt Williams has been asked countless times this season about the maturation of Harper, how it has been for a teacher to watch his pupil take such a significant leap in his development. Williams, who generally likes to stay within moments and take matters day-by-day, decided to take a step back and appreciate what Harper has done this year and what he could be capable of moving forward.

"It just means that he’s had a great year. It means that he’s staying with his plan. It means that he continues to be patient at the plate," Williams said. "It just means that he’s continuing with his progress and that’s a very good sign for this franchise for years to come."

Drawing 118 walks - and counting - in a season is a rare feat that few MLB players will ever accomplish. He currently ranks second in baseball behind only Joey Votto, who is perhaps more associated with the stat than any contemporary player.

Harper's ability to draw walks has impressed just about everyone this season, including teammate Jose Lobaton.

"He's one of the greatest hitters I've ever seen. It's unbelievable to see how many walks he can take in a year," he said.

The Nationals have 12 games remaining on their schedule and Harper does not appear to be slowing down. There are a few more records he could set before it is all said and done.

He is five walks away from tying Ken Singleton's franchise single season record of 123. At 41 homers, Harper is just five away from Alfonso Soriano's record of 46 set in 2006. He is almost guaranteed to have the best on-base percentage (Mike Jorgensen, .444 in 1974), slugging percentage (Guerrero, .664 in 2000) and OPS (Guerrero, 1.074 in 2000) in franchise history. And he's just behind Guerrero's franchise-best .345 average with a .342 clip after Tuesday.

Those numbers should fall in due time and then Harper will aim for the next ones as he continues to ascend as an MLB superstar. With the way he is playing these days, no record is truly safe.

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It's Day 1 of spring training and Bryce Harper is already done taking questions regarding his future

It's Day 1 of spring training and Bryce Harper is already done taking questions regarding his future

So if you have not heard, Bryce Harper is going to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2018 season.

All off-season talking heads, baseball aficionados, radio hosts, etc. were speculating on where the outfielder’s destination will be next year.

And we are still a year away from it actually happening.

RELATED: VEGAS SETS OVER/UNDERS FOR 2018 MLB SEASON

Reporting to spring training on Monday, Harper did not waste any time telling the media how his press conferences were going to play out this season.

“If guys do [ask], or talk anything about that, I will be walking right out the door.”

Entering his seventh season with the Washington Nationals, the 25-year-old is coming off the second-best season, statistically, of his career. The 2015 NL MVP has hit .285 in his career, with 150 home runs and 421 RBIs. Unquestionably he is the face of the Nationals’ organization, if not, the best player in the team’s history.

If he does end the season without a contract extension, he will join Rafael Palmeiro, Alex Rodriguez, Randy Johnson, and Barry Bonds as the top sought out free agents in MLB history.

One thing is for certain in terms of Harper’s free agency; Harper has given no inclination on where his landing spot will be.  The top three cities are of course his favorite childhood team, the New York Yankees; joining with one of his closest friends with the Chicago Cubs; or just staying with Washington.

Wherever he does land, it does appear that it will be the largest contract given to a free agent ever.

As for now we just wait and direct any of your calls to his agent Scott Boras.

READ ALSO: NATIONALS FULL SPRING TRAINING SCHEDULE

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Nationals Spring Training Schedule 2018

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USA Today Sports Images

Nationals Spring Training Schedule 2018

Now that pitchers and catchers have reported, the next step in our long journey to Opening Day is the spring training games themselves. Not every game is televised, so get ready to follow along with your favorite beat writer's Twitter account for all your updates.

Even without getting to watch the games, it'll still be exciting to once again check box scores in the morning to see if Bryce Harper homered again, or if Max Scherzer is perfect through 4 innings (spoiler: both of these will happen).

This year's spring training will be especially interesting, considering how many big-name players will be signing contracts in the next few weeks. The Nats are always willing to make a big splash, and even beyond the available free agents, have been linked to impact players like J.T. Realmuto in trade rumors.

Typically, the excitement of adding a new piece to the roster has to be reignited after a long winter off, but this season, those additions will be happening while camp is already underway.

It's going to be a hectic few weeks as teams prepare for their seasons, so bookmark this page to check on the Nationals spring training schedule over the next few weeks as the team finally takes the field in 2018.

Nationals 2018 Spring Training Schedule

Friday, Feb. 23 - Nationals at Astros, 1:05 pm (MLBN)
Saturday, Feb. 24 - Nationals at Marlins, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Feb. 25 - Braves at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Monday, Feb. 26 - Nationals at Braves, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Feb. 27 - Marlins at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Wednesday, Feb. 28 - Nationals at Marlins, 1:05 pm
Thursday, Mar. 1 (SS) - Nationals at Braves, 1:05 pm
Friday, Mar. 2 (SS) - Nationals at Mets, 1:10 pm
Saturday, Mar. 3 - Nationals at Astros, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 4 (SS) - Tigers at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 4 (SS) - Nationals at Mets, 1:10 pm
Monday, Mar. 5 - Nationals at Cardinals, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Mar. 6 (SS) - Astros at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Wednesday, Mar. 7 - Nationals at Cardinals, 1:05 pm
Thursday, Mar. 8 - Mets at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Saturday, Mar. 10 - Nationals at Astros, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 11 - Cardinals at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Monday, Mar. 12 - Nationals at Tigers, 1:05 pm (MLBN)
Tuesday, Mar. 13 (SS) - Mets at Nationals, 7:05 pm (MLBN) (MASN)
Thursday, Mar. 15 - Astros at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Friday, Mar. 16 (SS) - Cardinals at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Saturday, Mar. 17 - Mets at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 18 - Nationals at Cardinals, 1:05 pm
Monday, Mar. 19 - Nationals at Marlins, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Mar. 20 - Marlins at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Wednesday, Mar. 21 - Astros at Nationals, 1:05 pm (ESPN2) (MASN)
Thursday, Mar. 22 - Nationals at Mets, 6:10 pm
Friday, Mar. 23 (SS) - Astros at Nationals, 6:05 pm (MASN)
Friday, Mar. 23 - Nationals at Marlins, 7:05 pm
Saturday, Mar. 24 - Marlins at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 25 - Cardinals at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MLBN)
Tuesday, Mar. 27 (at Nationals Park) - Twins at Nationals, 4:05 pm