Harper creative yet quiet in spring opener

VIERA, Fla. - Nationals fans might be eager to see Bryce Harper mash home runs and rack up RBIs in spring training, but leading off the third inning in today's exhibition game against Georgetown, the Nats' top prospect decided he wanted to drop down a bunt.

It might not be Harper's forte, and the Nats sure don't expect the power-hitting right fielder to make bunting a major part of his game, but, hey, this is the time to work on those kinds of things, I guess.

"In the on-deck circle, I was just like, 'I'm going to walk up there and try and lay one down and see what happens,' " Harper said after the Nats' 3-0 win over the Hoyas. "That was it. ... (It was) wide open, you know? Just trying to make something happen, I guess."

Harper's bunt attempt failed, as he was thrown out by Georgetown right-hander Jack Vander Linden, and the Nats' right fielder finished the day going 0-for-2 with a walk.

Still, Harper had his moments this afternoon. He stayed patient during a first-inning at-bat, taking a ball despite having the swing sign on a 3-0 pitch, and then made a nice running grab of a sinking line drive in the top half of the second inning.

"I felt good out there," Harper said. "Felt really good in the outfield. I worked hard (defensively) this offseason, and just felt really good. I got a good jump on the ball, got a good bead, and caught it."

In his final at-bat of the day, which came with one out in the fifth inning, Harper put a bit of a charge into the ball, sending it out to right before it was tracked down about 15 feet shy of the warning track.

Informed that manager Davey Johnson said he felt Harper's drive would have left the park if not for a fairly heavy wind coming in from right, Harper cracked a smile.

"Sure. I'll take that," Harper said. "Absolutely. No, I don't know. I got it pretty good; I didn't get it as good as I could, but the wind howls a little bit to right. I was just trying to put something in play and get going."

Today, Harper got going against college kids, which was fitting for a guy who would just be a freshman in college had baseball not altered things a bit. In fact, the vast majority of the players on Georgetown's roster are actually older than the 19-year-old, who could crack the Nats' opening day roster if he has a solid camp.

Things will pick up a bit from here on out, however as Harper's at-bats against major league competition will begin tomorrow.

We'll see if the bunting strategy continues when big-leaguers are standing across from him.

Dan Kolko was named MASNsports.com's Nationals beat writer after spending the last four years covering the Baltimore Ravens for MASN and also serving as the Web site's deputy managing editor. A University of Delaware graduate originally from Silver Spring, Md., Dan grew up a die-hard baseball fan and is thrilled for the opportunity to cover the Nationals. Before joining MASN, Dan worked in production at Comcast SportsNet in Bethesda, Md., and also interned at the nationally syndicated "George Michael Sports Machine" in Washington, D.C.

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