Nationals spring training live blog, Bryce Harper Debut Edition

Adam Kilgore
Copyright 2011
Monday, February 28, 2011; 4:14 PM

Final: Adam Carr pitched a 1-2-3 inning and the Nats won, 9-3 Top 9, 3:53: Bryce Harper came to bat for the second time and struck out on four pitches against Ryota Igarashi. He looked at a strike, a ball, and a strike, then swung over an 86-mph sinking fastball. It's all uphill from here. Before Harper came up, Michael Morse crushed his second two-run homer in as many at-bats, this one an oppo boppo to right. The Nats lead, 9-3. End 8, 3:43: Todd Coffey took care of business, 1-2-3. Michael Morse, in a rare appearance at third, made a nice play on a sharp one-hopper right at him to end the inning. Last year, the Nationals started 0-11 and their pitching was a mess. Today's just one game, but it's been a polar opposite of that. Chad Gaudin was pretty sharp, while Broderick, Slaten and Coffery were excellent. Well, well, well: Jim Riggleman said Bryce Harper would get one at-bat, but he's due up fourth and is out by the on-deck circle warming up. The pitcher is Ryota Igarashi, a right-hander. For Harper to have a chance, Brian Bixler, Jason Frazier or Morse would have to reach base. Mid 8, 3:37: Alberto Gonzalez singled and stole second, but the Nats had an otherwise quiet inning against former National Mike O'Conner. Corey Brown popped to center and is now 0 for 2. Todd Coffey is in the game. He sprinted to the infield, but the bullpens here and down the line, so unfortunately, it was a short sprint. Top 7, 3:30: Official, 3,461 people saw Bryce Harper strike out on three pitches. End 7, 3:27: Great inning for left-handed reliever Doug Slaten. He induced a pop-up and struck out two against some Mets reserves. Top 7, 3:18: Bryce Harper struck out on three pitches in his first major league spring training at-bat. He fouled off the first pitch Taylor Tankersley threw him, then swung and missed and two. The second was an offspeed pitch, seemingly a slider. Before he stepped into the box, Harper rubbed dirt from around home plate on his bare hands. He wore a thin strip of eye black under each eye. Harper's at-bat came after Michael Morse drilled a two-run home run to left. The Nats lead 7-3. Top 7, 3:14: Brian Bixler doubled off Tankersley with one out and Jason Frazier reached on a dropped fly ball. So, barring an odd double play, Harper will bat this inning. He is on deck now. Also, in 188 career at-bats against lefties, Tankersley has allowed a .233 average and seven homers. End 6th, 3:06: Rule 5 pick Brian Broderick pitched his first inning for the Nationals. He allowed one hit, a double by Dusty Ryan, and no runs while striking out Valdespin. Harper is due up fifth in the seventh, and left-hander Taylor Tankersley is on. Mid 6th, 2:57: Craig Stammen got through the fifth with no trouble, allowing just a single to Nick Evans and striking out Scott Hairston. Jason Isringhausen started the sixth by retiring Corey Brown and hitting Danny Espinosa with a pitch. Jerry Hairston ended the inning with a 4-6-3 double play. We're five hitters away from Bryce Harper's first at-bat. It's 4-3, Nats. 2:47: Almost lost in the excitement over Harper's first appearance in a big league game was the return of Jesus Flores. He popped to first base to end the inning in his first major league at-bat of any kind since September 2009. Now, he's catching, in for Wilson Ramos. Stammen remains in. 2:40: Bryce Harper has entered as a pinch-RUNNER for DH Matt Stairs after Stairs grounded an RBI single through the right side. Harper was born about a month after Stairs made his major league debut. Harper's introduction received a warm cheer from crowd here. The Nats lead 4-3. 2:33: Nice hustle out of Ian Desmond, who stretched a single into a double to lead off the fifth after Russ Adams just missed a diving catch. He was smoking out of the box. 2:30: Stammen cleaned up his mess to an extent. After the run scored, Stammen got a pop to left from Jordany Valdespin (name of the spring so far) and a grounder to first by Kirk Nieuwenheis. 2:25: Tough start to the spring for Craig Stammen. He walked the first batter he faced, Scott Hairston, on four pitches. Two pitches later, a wild pitch sent Hairston to second. Murphy lined out to right. Mike Nickeas singled to left, and Ruben Tejada ripped an RBI single to right. One out in the fourth, two on, now tied 3-3. 2:17 Not a great start for Nyjer Morgan. He's 0 for 3, and he just ended the fourth with a 4-6-3 double play. The Nats lead, 3-2. Craig Stammen replaces Gaudin. 2:12: Danny Espinosa reaches with a bunt single. The Nats are 2 for 3 on bunt singles already -- Espinosa and Bernadina reached, Morgan did not. Runners on he corners with one out, now, after Hairston's ground out. Morgan comes to bat. 2:10 Wilson Ramos led off the fourth with a double down the third base line against reliever D.J. Carrasco. He moved to third when Carrasco air-mailed a pickoff throw into center. Kevin Barker dribbled one to second, and Ramos bolted home, beating Murphy's throw with a nice slide into the plate. 3-2, Nats. 2:05: Gaudin is presumably done after three innings, and his last was his best. He faced four batters and only Nick Evans reached, on a throwing error by Jerry Hairston. He struck out Fernando Martinez looking to end the inning. Gaudin is certainly a strike thrower -- he needed 47 pitches, and 32 were strikes. 1:55: The rally was ended by a double play from Matt Stairs. Chad Gaudin stays in the game for a third inning. He's only thrown 32 pitches, 22 strikes. 1:53: Rally brewing for the Nats. Roger Bernadina dropped a bunt single to third, and Michael Morse followed with a hot grounder through the left side. Two on, one out (an Ian Desmond looking K.) 1:47: Gaudin out of the inning with a nifty 4-6-3 double play by Danny Espinosa and Ian Desmond. First of many this year for those two. 1:45: Another hard-hitting inning for the Mets against Gaudin. After a ground-rule double by Daniel Murphy, a grounder to second and a single by Ruben Tejada, it's 2-2 in the bottom of the second. 1:38: Jerry Hairston with a sac fly to center. 2-1 Nats. Morgan tried a bunt, but it went foul. 0-1 on him. ... Morgan then bunted again, and third baseman Daniel Murphy made a great play. Got him by a nose after the bare-hand pick-up. 1:36: Nats have something going. Wilson Ramos singled the other way, and Luis Castillo couldn't handle Danny Espinosa's chopper, an E4 that sent Ramos to third. It is SPRING TRAINING and Castillo gets booed. Runners on the corners, one out in the second. 1:31: Up and down inning for Gaudin. He also struck out Jason Bay with a fastball, but then yielded a pair of hard-hit singles by Nick Evans and Fernando Martinez. He ended the inning by striking out Scott Hairston with yet another fastball. It's got some life. Gaudin is 5-11, but as pitching coach Steve McCatty has said, "he throws like he's 6-5." Gaudin threw 22 pitches, 16 strikes. Scott Hairston's brother, Jerry, is playing third and batting ninth for the Nationals. Could be some Hairston-on-Hairston crime in the NL East this year. 1:22: After Chad Gaudin air-mailed a warm-up pitch to the backstop, he struck out Luis Castillo swinging at a 90-mph fastball. But Angel Pagan followed with a very wind-aided home run to left, an opposite-field solo shot on a 75-mph curve. 1-1. 1:18: Matt Stairs grounds to second. Inning over. Here comes Chad Gaudin. Under the radar: Bo Porter making his third base coaching debut. 1:16: The Nats lead, 1-0. Ian Desmond smashed a triple to the warning track in center, and Roger Bernadina followed with a line drive single to right. He then promptly stole second. Michael Morse grounded out. Two down. 1:13 Mike Pelfrey's first pitch to Nyjer Morgan was a fastball for a looking strike. On 0-2, Morgan popped foul to third base. One up, one down. 1:08: Manager's meet at home plate with the umps. Terry Collins, the new Mets manager, shakes hands with Jim Riggleman. We're about two minutes from first pitch. 1:00 Anthem. 12:54: Welcome back to still-awfully named Digital Domain Park, site of Harpocalypse 2011. Bryce Harper has already impressed during batting practice, mixing in opposite-field line drives with a few blasts to right and center, including one that smacked off a batter's eye some 20 feet above a 410 sign in dead-away center field. "Good BP," said his father, Ron, who watched from four rows behind the Nationals dugout. Harper will receive one at-bat today, but he will not play the field, Manager Jim Riggleman said. Harper will receive his first defensive action tomorrow, likely for two or three innings in place of right fielder Jayson Werth, Riggleman said. The Nationals want to ease Harper into his first game. He has blended in well for a week -- Riggleman agreed that if you took the "Harper" off the back of his jersey, he wouldn't stand out a bit. But he's still 18, still in his first spring. "Nothing but neutral or positive is going to come out of this," Riggleman said. "Just to kind of get the butterflies out on that first I think will be good for him." "The first one at spring training at a major league game is something that's going to mean something to him. We'd like to see him go up there and get it out of the way, as much as anything. He's had to deal with so much attention." I'll be providing updates all game in this post, with the warning that at some point I may have to leave the press box in order to interview the starter, Chad Gaudin. We'll see what happens. The newest update, which will come every half inning or so, will be on top. Get your F5 button ready.

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