Jonathan Papelbon explains decision to choke Bryce Harper, then apologizes

As Jonathan Papelbon starts his second season with the Washington Nationals, he cleared the air about an unfortunate incident from last season.

On Friday at spring training in Viera, Florida, the right-handed closer took the blame for a Sept. 27 dugout dust-up with outfielder Bryce Harper during which Papelbon grabbed his teammate around the neck. 

According to ESPN’s Eddie Matz:

The confrontation occurred after Harper popped up for the first out of the eighth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies. When Harper returned to the dugout, Papelbon was leaning over the rail and the two exchanged words before Papelbon lunged at Harper. Other Nationals stepped in to break them up. It appeared Papelbon may have been unhappy with the lack of hustle his teammate showed down the first-base line. Here’s video of how it unfolded:

Papelbon missed the rest of the 2015 season, serving suspensions for that incident and for throwing at the Baltimore Orioles’ Manny Machado.

Papelbon attributed the fight with Harper to competition and frustration boiling over. He may be apologetic, but last season many former and active players sided — at least partially — with him. Regardless of who was at fault, it didn’t look good for the franchise.

Luckily for Harper, Papelbon and the rest of the Nats, 2016 brings the opportunity for a fresh start, something the team can no doubt embrace after a disappointing campaign.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.