Bryan Harper looking to join brother Bryce on Nats roster
JUPITER, Fla. (AP) — It’s easy to confuse Bryan Harper with his more famous brother Bryce, especially with both wearing Washington Nationals uniforms.
They stand about 6-foot-4 and share similar facial features, right down to tightly cropped beards. Even Bryan’s No. 39 is similar to Bryce’s 34.
That’s one reason Bryan doesn’t mind too much when fans call him “Bryce” while lobbying for an autograph.
“They’re like, ‘Oh, thanks Bryce,’” said a smiling Bryan, who always signs his own name. “I’m like, OK, well enjoy that signature.”
Bryan, a reliever, and Bryce, a right fielder, have yet to appear simultaneously in a game this year. Normally stoic, Bryce conceded he could get emotional if they ever share the same field.
“You get the chills sitting here and thinking about him running past you,” Bryce said. “Standing in right field, I’m right there in the bullpen. I’m sure they’ll pan on to me and I’ll be tearing up a little bit because if he makes it up here it’s going to be pretty incredible for me and my family.”
Participating in his first major league camp, Bryan’s presence in West Palm Beach is more than a warm family moment.
Drafted in three different years, Bryan signed with the Nationals after they chose him in the 30th round of the 2010 amateur draft. He had consecutive seasons with a sub-3.00 ERA as a reliever at the Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Syracuse, then missed last season while recovering from elbow ligament-replacement surgery.
His fastball is about 90 mph, approximately 3 mph shy of his pre-injury velocity, and he throws a slider and a changeup. The left-hander has a 3.00 ERA in three exhibition appearances.
“Bryan earned his stripes,” Washington general manager Mike Rizzo said. “We’ve never handed him anything. He was well on his way before the injury and rehabbed diligently and worked really hard to get here. It had nothing to do with the name on the back of his jersey.”
The Harpers live together during spring training but don’t spend much time with each other once they arrive at the ballpark. Their lockers are on opposite ends of the clubhouse, and during games Bryan is usually in the bullpen, while Bryce sits in the dugout.
Bryan didn’t make the trip to Jupiter for Washington’s 4-3 loss to St. Louis on Wednesday. Bryce doubled in one of his four at-bats as the Nationals’ designated hitter.
“It was good the other day,” Bryan said. “He was DHing and I was in the dugout. I just got to hang out with him for a little bit, so that was fun.”
Bryce is the famous brother. Bryan, at 28, is older by three years. He was playing for the Nationals’ Class A team at Auburn, New York, when 19-year-old Bryce made his major league debut in 2012.
Like Nationals’ former pitching coach Mike Maddux, whose younger and more recognizable brother Greg is in the Hall of Fame, Bryan has spent his professional career playing in the shadow of his younger sibling.
“Probably his best friend, biggest fan is his younger brother,” said Mike Maddux, who discussed family dynamics with Bryan last year. “If you’re going to be in the shadow of someone, that’s a pretty good one to be in.”
There isn’t even a hint of jealously in Bryan’s voice when discussing his brother’s success.
“We’re a baseball family,” Bryan said. “We always have been. It’s really exciting. Obviously, he’s at the highest level and I’m tying to work to be at the highest level. It’s always been a lifelong dream for both of us.”
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