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Nationals will likely keep Harper in majors

Sat., May 5, 2012, midnight


WASHINGTON – Don’t expect Bryce Harper to return to the minors anytime soon. When it comes to the 19-year-old outfielder, Washington Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo explained Friday, “We’re not dumb.”

During Rizzo’s speaking appearance at the National Press Club, the first three questions directed his way were about Harper, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 amateur draft who already is making a mark, less than a week after being brought to the major leagues for the first time.

Harper joined the Nationals ahead of schedule, called up last weekend when third baseman Ryan Zimmerman went on the 15-day disabled list. At the time, Rizzo said he couldn’t predict how long Harper would stick. All along, the GM has insisted he wanted the youngster to spend time at each level in the minors, including Triple-A Syracuse.

“We have a developmental plan for Bryce Harper. It’s been well- documented. … But we’re not dumb, either,” Rizzo said. “This guy is performing admirably in the big leagues. We feel that he’s got a chance to really impact the ballclub. He’s a special talent. So you have to throw ordinary developmental curves out the window, if you have to. You have to be able to be light on your feet and utilize the assets that you have. And believe me, if Bryce Harper is performing like he’s performing now, there’s no way … I can get (manager) Davey Johnson to get rid of him.”

Harper moved into Zimmerman’s No. 3 hole in the batting order on Thursday, and was slotted there again for Friday’s home game against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Harper entered the day with a .375 average, four doubles and three runs batted in after 16 at-bats.

Rizzo said that bringing Harper to the majors now “was a tough decision to make. We weren’t positive that the player was ready, fully ready. But … you never know when they’re fully ready until you get them there, and they prove that they’re ready.

“We’re here to win. We want to win for our fan base. … For too many years, we had to play the likes of the Phillies, the Mets, the Braves and the Marlins. Undermanned and outgunned. It’s like going to a gun fight with a knife. Not anymore. We’re fully armed, extremely dangerous, and we’re the talk of baseball. We’re young, athletic and fast-moving.

“If I were a baseball fan in Washington, D.C., I wouldn’t miss a minute of what’s going on this year.”

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