Bryce Harper will likely play, but not start, in the Nationals spring training opener at the Mets
Thursday, February 24, 2011; 10:41 AM
Bryce Harper will travel with the Nationals to their first game of the spring training, meaning the first overall pick's first action against a major league opponent will likely come Monday in Port St. Lucie against the New York Mets. Harper will not start, but "I'll try to get him an at-bat in that game," Manager Jim Riggleman said. Harper, 18, has high-level professional experience from the 2010 Arizona Fall League, but playing in an exhibition game against major leaguers will be a new step in his development. At 18, Harper will be the youngest player any time he steps on a major league spring training field. Harper will likely remain with the Nationals for roughly seven to 10 days once games begin before joining the Nationals' minor league camp. "While he's with us, I would just like him to get his work, get his game situations that we put him in," Riggleman said. "I'm hoping that he kind of blends in. I'm not looking for him excel against major league pitching. But the more that he kind of goes up there and looks like the rest of them, if he didn't have Harper on his back, if he blended in and put the barrel on the ball a few times, I think we'd say, 'That's a pretty good ballplayer there.' " The Nationals will leave Adam LaRoche, Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth behind for their first trip. Nyjer Morgan, Michael Morse, Jerry Hairston, Ian Desmond, Danny Espinosa and Roger Bernadina will make the trip. Chad Gaudin will start the game, and Craig Stammen, Brian Broderick, Todd Coffey and Doug Slaten will all pitch at least one inning, Riggleman said. The day following their first game, the Mets will travel to Viera to play at Space Coast Stadium. Livan Hernandez will start that game.