WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 01: Bryce Harper #34 of the Washington Nationals talks to the media before the game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Nationals Park on May 1, 2012 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
Asked if he thought the other players in the Washington Nationals' clubhouse would embrace 19-year-old phenom Bryce Harper if they thought he could help them win now by ESPN980's Kevin Sheehan and Thom Loverro, D.C. GM Mike Rizzo said yesterday that this past Spring Training gave the rest of the big league club a good opportunity to get to know what the 2010 no.1 overall pick is really all about. "With every team that he's played on," Rizzo said, "His teammates just love the guy. He's a good guy to have in the clubhouse. He's a good guy to have on the field. He's a team-first guy and he's got that swagger that really resonates with other players. I think that the players know what this guy can do. I think that they know that he gives us a better chance to win games and I think with that he'll have at least the respect of the clubhouse if he's willing to be one of the members of the team. And he's shown in every aspect that he's a good teammate and he's going to fit in very nicely in that clubhouse."
Nats' starter Gio Gonzalez, who enjoyed the benefits or Harper's aggressive approach to defense when the young outfielder made a huge catch while crashing into the Dodger Stadium center field wall this past Sunday, said he was thoroughly impressed with what he saw from the top prospect in baseball in his first two games in the majors this weekend. In an interview yesterday on the MLB Network Radio show Inside Pitch with Casey Stern and Jim Bowden, Gonzalez said from what he's seen Harper is "unbelievable."
"The kid has talent that is going to shock the world," the left-handed starter said. "He's just incredible. He made a play for me the other day, robbing maybe a triple from [Juan] Uribe. And he has a cannon of an arm, a lot of power. Talking to some of the guys, the potential on him is just going to be incredible. I don't think he has a ceiling for his talent."
Getting called up to the majors before the Nationals had originally plan isn't an experience that the Nationals' GM thinks will adversely affect that young outfielder. Rizzo told ESPN980's Mr.'s Sheehan and Loverro yesterday that the only risk in bringing Harper up was, "... what is the makeup of the player? Does the makeup of the player deteriorate if tough times are coming, which in the major leagues every player is going to go through [his] ups and downs and is the player mentally prepared to take on the ups and the downs of a very long major league season? And I thought with where Bryce is at in his development, where he was at offensively, approach-wise at the plate, and defensively, I felt really good about his makeup, his maturity... Physically, mentally and emotionally, I thought he could handle the transition and he was a guy that if he went up to the big leagues and didn't have immediate success could take the ups and downs of a major league season without regressing his development."
As the Nats' GM noted in an conference call with reporters last Friday, Nationals' manager Davey Johnson's desire to have Bryce Harper on the major league roster has been well-documented since this past Winter. As reported by Washington Post writer Adam Kilgore (@AdamKilgoreWP) on Twitter this afternoon, the 69-year-old manager joked with reporters today as Harper prepared to make his home debut, that the only question he had about the young phenom's place in the Nationals' lineup was, "'... how long I hit him 7th.'" His manager, his teammates and his GM are all sure Bryce Harper's capable of handling the situation he's been thrust into sooner than expected by the Nationals' needs. They all seem to think he's ready. Harper thought he was ready in Spring Training of 2011.
Bryce Harper makes his Nationals Park debut in less than two hours. The left-handed hitting slugger is batting seventh and playing left field tonight. Who's going to miss that?