Nationals to bring up top prospect Bryce Harper


Washington Nationals’ Bryce Harper went to Triple-A after spring training, but the big club has called him up. (Associated Press)
Washington Nationals’ Bryce Harper went to Triple-A after spring training, but the big club has called him up. (Associated Press)

Bryce Harper tends to do things ahead of schedule, so it should surprise no one that he’s already heading to the major leagues.

The 19-year-old outfielder, who was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 amateur draft, will be recalled by the Washington Nationals from Triple-A Syracuse today.

“I’m going to put him in left field and let him play,” manager Davey Johnson said Friday in Los Angeles, where he will bat Harper seventh for the final two games of a series at Dodger Stadium. “Harp had a great spring training, he’s a phenomenal talent, and he’s been swinging the bat down there. But we have a need here for a left-handed bat, and he’s the guy that fits the role. As far as I’m concerned, he’s earned the right to get the opportunity.”

Widely regarded as baseball’s top prospect, Harper will take the roster spot of third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, who is going on the 15-day disabled list – retroactive to April 21 – with inflammation in his right shoulder. Zimmerman was the fourth draft selection in 2005.

Once Harper and Zimmerman get to appear in the same lineup, things should be even more interesting for the Nationals.

“Suffice it to say, this isn’t the coming-out party for Bryce that we had in mind,” Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said on a conference call. “This isn’t the optimal situation developmentally.”

“Bryce is a very talented player and he’s going to help us win games. I don’t think they would call up anyone that’s not going to help us,” Zimmerman said. “He can help us in a lot of ways. With as much stuff that’s going to happen tomorrow with the media and everything, I think he’s ready to handle the situation.”

Zimmerman is batting .224 with a home run and seven RBIs in 15 games. Johnson said his third baseman will begin throwing Tuesday and start swinging a bat in a week.

The Nationals also placed reliever Brad Lidge on the 15-day disabled list with an abdominal wall strain, the second of the team’s three potential closers to go on the shelf. Lidge, whose move is retroactive to April 22, had been sharing closer duties with Henry Rodriguez while Drew Storen recovers from elbow surgery.

Harper skipped his final year of high school, earned his GED, then played one season of junior college baseball at the College of Southern Nevada to become eligible for the draft and get a head-start on his professional career. He signed a five-year, $9.9 million contract, including $6.5 million in signing bonuses, with the Nationals in August 2010.

Rizzo has stated repeatedly that he thinks all young players should spend time at each level of the minors before moving to the big leagues. So while Johnson wanted Rizzo to consider letting Harper skip Triple-A, the team sent him to Syracuse after he hit .286 in spring training this year.

But with their top two hitters – Zimmerman and left fielder Michael Morse, who’s been out all season with a problematic back muscle – sidelined by injuries, the team decided to bring up Harper now. He was hitting .250 with a homer and three RBIs in 72 at-bats at Syracuse.

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