Harper arrives early at Nationals camp
VIERA, Fla. (AP) — Bryce Harper arrived early at the Washington Nationals’ spring training camp and declared he has several goals for this season — there’s only one he’ll share publicly, though.
“World Series,” the reigning NL Rookie of the Year said Thursday. “That’s the biggest thing on my mind. I have goals in my head, but I’m not going to share those because people are probably going to think I’m crazy.”
Coming off a season in which he helped lead Washington to its first playoff appearance and then became the first Nationals player to earn top rookie honors, the 20-year-old outfielder wants more.
“I like to exceed my expectations, and (that’s) the only expectation that really matters to me. The World Series is the biggest thing on my mind,” Harper added.” I want to take that back to D.C.”
Unlike last spring, when Harper was competing for a roster spot, the only uncertainty for the dynamic star this year is where he will hit in the lineup and what will be his primary spot in the outfield.
Washington added left-handed hitting center fielder Denard Span, creating a conundrum for manager Davey Johnson at the top of the order.
Jayson Werth batted leadoff as the Nationals made their NL East championship run and Harper, a lefty, was in the No. 2 spot. With Span now at the top the order, it’s unlikely Johnson would put two left-handers back-to-back in front of third baseman Ryan Zimmerman.
That could push Harper down at least one spot to third, or even perhaps to No. 5.
“I like hitting in the two spot,” Harper said. “I think it’s a good spot for me, especially with Denard leading off and Zim behind me. But wherever he wants to put me, that’s fine. Davey’s a great manager.”
Johnson plans to consult with Werth on where the veteran would like to hit in the lineup, but said he could do a little experimenting this spring.
“I think he thinks (the No. 2 spot is) where I want to hit him, because that’s where I hit him last year,” Johnson said. “With the addition of a left-handed bat leading off, I like to vary it. This spring is going to be kind of a test to see where I think they fit the best.”
It’s easy to understand why Harper is comfortable batting second: He hit 22 home runs with 59 RBIs and an NL rookie-best 98 runs in 139 games.
Arriving at camp a day early, Harper looked more muscular at 230 pounds. But he figures he will lose at least 10 pounds by the end of spring training.
Another question facing Harper this spring is which corner outfield spot he’ll occupy.
All indications are Harper will play left field. Johnson joked Wednesday that Werth told him Harper would be a better fit in left because he hasn’t hit a cutoff man in two years.
Harper, who has also played right field and center for Washington, didn’t appear to have a strong opinion either way.
“I started out (in left) last year. It’s just another spot,” he said. “As long as I’m in the lineup, I’m hitting and doing things I can do to help this team. That’s good for me.”
Given that he established himself last season, you would think the No. 1 overall pick of the 2010 draft would be feeling a little more comfortable entering his second season.
“I don’t think you should ever be comfortable,” Harper said. “I think every single time you go into spring training . someone could come up here, have a great spring and possibly take your spot.
“I’ve always thought that,” he continued. “I think you should work hard every spring, work hard during the season, try to get better every single day out here.”
NOTES: Washington’s pitchers and catchers held their first official workout Thursday, but recently signed closer Rafael Soriano was a no-show. A team spokesman said the Dominican Republic native is having visa issues and that his situation is day to day. He is expected in camp soon. . Johnson said he wasn’t worried about Soriano’s status because he is a veteran pitcher and knows what he needs to do to get ready for the season. . Rain halted the workout early, but all of the Nationals pitchers were able to get their bullpen sessions done. Among those throwing were Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Ross Detwiler. . Right-hander Dan Haren is scheduled to throw Friday . Wilson Ramos was a welcome sight for the Nationals, catching his first bullpen since tearing the ACL in his right knee on May 12.