VIERA, Fla. - Bryce Harper, the top overall pick in the 2010 draft, drew a first-round pick from the 2009 draft as his opponent during Sunday’s first day of live batting practice at Nationals spring training. Just not that first-rounder.
Instead of hitting against right-hander Stephen Strasburg - a possibility when the groups of hitters and pitchers were posted Friday morning - the 19-year-old phenom faced closer Drew Storen, who was picked 10th by the Nationals in the first round of 2009.
Harper tracked the first three pitches thrown by Storen during his 10-minute mound effort, swung and missed at an inside offering and then watched another fastball fly by. In his second go-around against the right-hander, Harper grounded a ball to the hole between first and second bases, making solid contact.
“You want to see (pitches),” Harper said. “You haven’t seen live pitching since October, November, so you want to take a couple of see what he’s got. You just try to see some pitches. If you don’t get a strike, you don’t get a strike. If you don’t get a hit, you don’t get a hit.”
Harper was disappointed he didn’t get to hit off Strasburg, though he knows that opportunity will likely eventually happen. His last up-close viewpoint was late last season, when he watched Strasburg from the sidelines after a hamstring injury short-circuited his time at Double-A Harrisburg.
“I wanted to face him so bad,” Harper said. “I wanted to see what he was about. If he made me look stupid, I didn’t even care. ... I don’t know if I’d want to face him (in a game); I’m glad he’s on my team. But it might be fun to step in there and see what he looks like from that angle. I watched from the dugout when I was in Harrisburg, so that’s as close as I want to get to that.”
Strasburg didn’t seem like the dream matchup of first overall selections was a big deal to him.
“It’s not like they’re out there trying to do these perfect matchups of like top prospects of all time,” he said. “He’s out there trying to get his licks, I’m out there trying to throw strikes. We’re on the same team.”