Bryce Harper heads home, for now, as Arizona Fall League begins

Adam Kilgore
Copyright 2010
Monday, October 11, 2010; 7:41 PM

As the Florida Instructional League ends Monday and the Arizona Fall League begins Tuesday, first overall pick Bryce Harper will head home to Las Vegas at least for the time being while the Nationals leave open the possibility he will play in the Fall League before it ends in mid-November. Harper, a power-hitting outfielder who turned 18 on Oct. 1, spent the past month in Viera, Fla. at the Nationals instructional league camp, his first experience as a professional. Nationals Director of Player Development Doug Harris and General Manager Mike Rizzo will speak in the next few days to decide if Harper's next step includes playing in the AFL. For now, they want to give Harper time to relax and reflect in a comfortable setting. "He's going to go home," Harris said. "Mike and I are going to talk about it. This is the first time he's really been away from home. He needs to go home." Harris said Harper improved as the instructional league ended. Harper showed improvement with his plate discipline and, in the final week, he hit a couple opposite field home runs - "oppo boppos," as Harper called them during his introductory press conference. "He's really done a nice job making adjustments," Harris said. For Harper to eventually attend the fall league, the Nationals would first need to obtain a special exemption from Major League Baseball. Each team can choose two players who have yet to reach Class AA, and the Nationals will send Sammy Solis and Derek Norris. The Nationals, though, have one roster spot available, and they can petition MLB for one more exemption. The Nationals would almost certainly be able to clear that obstacle, if they so choose. As a refresher, here's the Nationals' current Arizona Fall League contingent, who will play for the Mesa Solar Sox and be managed by Class AA Harrisburg Manager Randy Knorr: Adam Carr, reliever Brad Peacock, SP Sammy Solis, SP Derek Norris, C Steve Lombardozzi, 2B Michael Burgerss, OF As for the end of the instructional league, Harris mentioned third baseman Steven Souza, outfielder Destin Hood and pitchers A.J. Cole and Robbie Ray as players who had strong showings. Harris singled out right-handed pitcher Taylor Jordan, 21, as a particularly interesting player to watch. Jordan "threw the daylights out of it" in Florida, Harris said, hitting 93 and 94 miles per hour on a fastball with some wicked sinking action. Jordan "has begun to understand where his ability can take him," Harris said. "If he takes this seriously, he has a real chance to pitch in the big leagues. His focus was closer to where it needed to be, and it was fun to watch." This year, pitching mostly for Vermont and making one appearance in Hagerstown, Jordan went 2-4 with a 5.37 ERA in 65 1/3 innings with 8.1 strikeouts and 2.8 walks per nine innings.

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