Harper ready for the Minor League experience
Top prospect likely to leave big league camp in near future
VIERA, Fla. -- Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper survived the second round of roster cuts on Friday, but he is a realist. Harper believes it's a matter of time before he is sent to Minor League camp.
In fact, one person in the organization expects Harper to be off the Major League Spring Training roster in the next few days. Sources have indicated for weeks that Harper will start his first regular season of professional ball with Class A Hagerstown.
Harper, 18, acknowledged he has a lot to learn when it comes to professional baseball.
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"Right now, no," Harper said about making the Nationals' Opening Day roster. "I totally respect it. I have a lot of things I could learn from Minor League baseball, and I have to go through all the things that everybody has gone through.
"I have to go through the grind of playing 142 games a year. I've never done that. It's something I have to go through and I have to learn. I'm really excited to go through it. Hopefully, I will get a September callup or something like that -- maybe even earlier.
"Like I said, I'm excited to be [in big league camp] right now. I look forward to the season and being with the team that I'm going to be with. Hopefully, I'll get moved up sooner rather than later."
Harper has taken advantage of being in big league camp. In 12 games, all coming as a replacement in right field or as a designated hitter, Harper is 7-for-18 (.389) with five RBIs. Harper went 1-for-2 with an RBI on Friday against the Astros. He credits veterans such as Matt Stairs and Rick Ankiel for his development this spring.
"I've had a lot of fun out here. I've learned a lot being around the veteran guys," Harper said. "They took me under their wing. Ankiel and Stairs have been huge with me in the outfield. So I'm learning everything from them. There is nothing better than being around those big league guys."
Don't think Harper is content with his success this spring. He is the first to say he needs to improve his game. This is coming from a person who is considered by many to be the LeBron James of baseball.
"There are always things I can get better at -- hitting, catching, throwing and baserunning," Harper said. "There are a lot of things I could get better at, and that's how I feel. I want to be perfect in every aspect of the game. That's how I've always been. I've been blessed. I've had the good success. I'm excited to be up here. As long as I can stay up here as long as I can and be around the big league guys, that would be great."
During most of Spring Training, Harper has had his father, Ron, around for moral support, but he recently told him to go back home to Nevada and be with his mother, Sherri. Bryce said Ron has nothing to be concerned about leaving his youngest son in the hands of the Nationals.
"There is nothing [my dad] needs to worry about," Harper said. "I'm pretty low key. I'm going to do everything I can to make [my parents] happy and make this organization happy. I'm here to play baseball. That's what I'm going to do. I'm not going to do things I shouldn't be doing. I'm here to play and it's a job I have to do."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.