Davey Johnson told reporters today that 19-year-old outfielder Bryce Harper doesn't need to rest, so the Washington Nationals' '09 no.1 overall pick will play for the fourth straight day. Harper started tonight's game in right field against the New York Mets, a team his manager guided for seven seasons from 1984-1990, winning the World Series in 1986. Harper wasn't born until 1992. The 69-year-old skipper has said repeatedly this winter that he wants the second-year pro to get a legit shot at making the Nats' Opening Day roster and the veteran manager's apparently going to give the top outfield prospect in baseball (on most lists) every opportunity to show what he can do this Spring.
Harper singled up the middle in his first AB in the top of the second. After fouling off an offspeed pitch outside, Harper took a fastball up high and another one inside, 2-1 count, before sending a high-hopper back up the middle for a one-out single and his third hit in six at bats this Spring. Mets' third baseman Justin Turner booted a DP grounder off Jesus Flores' bat, allowing Harper to go from first-to-third™, but he failed to score, forced out at home on a 1-2-3 DP off Nats' bench option Andres Blanco's bat. Bet Harper's mad he didn't get to collide with Mets' catcher Josh Thole...
• 5th Starter: Nats' lefty John Lannan started his first Spring outing with a leadoff walk to the Mets' new center fielder Andres Torres, who stole second and scored on an RBI single up the middle by Mets' second baseman Daniel Murphy to make it a 1-0 game in the bottom of the first. A hard-hit liner to right by Mets' infielder Justin Turner found its way into Bryce Harper's glove and 2011 Minor League Gold Glove winner Steve Lombardozzi helped Lannan out of the inning by turning a 4-6-3 DP with infielder Andres Blanco and first baseman Chad Tracy. Lannan bounced back with a quick 1-2-3 inning in the second, and finished up his first start of the Spring with a 20-pitch scoreless third in which he gave up back-to-back one-out singles before pitching out of another jam. Lannan's Line: 3.0 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 43 pitches, 27 strikes.
• Ankieled It!!: Rick Ankiel homered to left-center in his first at bat, taking Mets' right-hander Dillon Gee deep for an opposite field blast that tied the game at 1-1 in the second. Ankiel is battling for a spot in the 2012 outfield this Spring after a 2011 season which saw him claim most of the playing in center in D.C., but put up just a .239/.296/.363 line with 20 doubles and nine HR's in 122 games and 415 AB's.
• AB no.2: Harper took a ball way inside from the Mets' 22-year-old 2010 1st Rounder right-hander Matt Harvey (who pitched part of the season at Double-A last year), then watched a 1-0 fastball all the way in for a called strike. Harper wouldn't bite on a 1-1 slider inside, but he took a healthy cut and just missed, a foul tip, on a 2-1 fastball. With the count at 2-2, Harper took a breaking ball in the dirt, holding up as Rick Ankiel (who'd walked with one down in the AB before Harper's) stole second on Mets' catcher Josh Thole. Harper was late on a 91 mph fastball full-count fastball, fouling it off, then he took on a 91 mph heater inside and low that was called ball four. 1 for 1 with a walk through two AB's for Harper thus far tonight.
• Shark vs Arm: Roger Bernadina singled on a line drive to right in his third AB, leaving Rick Ankiel's competition for the center field job 1 for 2 with a walk when he was lifted for pinch runner Eury Perez. Perez, the Nats' 21-year-old outfield prospect who stole 45 bases in 119 games at High-A Potomac last season, was running when Steve Lombardozzi came through with a perfect hit-and-run single through short, and as Perez sped around to third, beating the throw in from left, Lombardozzi, (who's known for having a high baseball IQ) made sure to take second putting two runners in scoring position for veteran infielder Mark Teahan, whose sac fly allowed Perez to score and make it a 2-1 game in the 5th.
• AB no.3: Harper got a filthy slider outside from left-hander Daniel Ray Herrera to start his third AB of the night, and he wasn't even close to it, big swing and miss. The Nats' right fielder fouled off a second slider outside from the 27-year-old veteran lefty and took an 0-2 pitch low and away that was close but a ball. 1-2 count. Herrera threw another slider on the fourth pitch of the AB, but Harper fought it off, reaching out to make contact and send a weak grounder to third that the hustling 19-year-old outfielder beat out. Gotta love the hustle. And Harper's done, replaced on the basepaths by Corey Brown. 4 for 7 through four games so far this Spring.
• Martin, Rafael Martin: 27-year-old right-hander Rafael Martin, who was referred to as the "Good Will Hunting" of Washington relievers by Mets' announcer Ron Darling as Martin warmed up tonight, walked the first batter he faced in the seventh inning. If you don't know Martin's story, the San Fernando, California-born, 6'2'' right-hander was signed by the Nationals in February 2010 after pitching for the Mexican League's Saraperos de Saltillo, a team he tried out for after four years working construction and playing baseball on the weekends after high school.
Martin pitched at Class-A Potomac in 2011, where he was (1-0) with a 1.13 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, two walks (2.25 BB/9) and 10 K's (11.25 K/9) in 8.0 IP and at Double-A Harrisburg, where he was (4-1) with 13 saves, a 1.77 ERA, 2.11 FIP, nine walks (2.27 BB/9) and 44 K's (11.10 K/9) in 32 games and 35.2 IP. The right-hander then went to the Arizona Fall League where he walked six (4.50 BB/9) and K'd nine (6.75 K/9) in 10 games and 12.0 IP. Martin walked two, but got a backwards K to end a scoreless seventh.
• 1-2 in Grapefruit League Action: The Nationals added a run in the eighth off former Nats' reliever Miguel Batista. 3-1 game. New Nats' reliever Waldis Joaquin (w/ a fastball around 92/93mph) threw a scoreless eighth with the help of a brilliant diving play by Nats' infielder Zach Walters, and he came back out for the ninth to finish off the Mets and the Nats' first win of the Spring. 3-1 final.